Effects of Stroking on Salivary Oxytocin and Cortisol in Guide Dogs: Preliminary Results
Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Pisa, Viale delle Piagge 2, 56124 Pisa, Italy
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Received: 6 March 2020 / Revised: 14 April 2020 / Accepted: 14 April 2020 / Published: 18 April 2020
Oxytocin, a nonapeptide hormone produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland, plays a peripheral role during labor, birth, and nursing. Since this role is well known nowadays, scientific interest in this hormone has shifted from its peripheral functions to its central functions, such as the onset of parental care, the regulation of social bonding, and modulation of the emotional state. For this final reason, this study intended to investigate the possible variations of salivary oxytocin induced by two different conditions: a positive condition (5 min of human–dog interaction) and a negative condition (5 min of isolation). Because oxytocin function is known to be affected by stress, salivary cortisol concentration was determined after both conditions and a stress–behavior assessment during the isolation phase was performed to further assess signs of distress. A significant increase in salivary oxytocin was observed only during the positive condition and, although no signs of distress were observed during the isolation phase, a correlation between the variations of salivary oxytocin and cortisol concentrations was found. These findings highlight the possibility of measuring the potential impact of stress on the oxytocinergic system during behavioral tests.