This study aimed to evaluate the state of welfare of a group of dogs during the first month after entering the shelter by using different stress parameters. Blood and fecal samples were collected from a group of 71 dogs at the time of admission to the shelter. In 46 of these dogs, sampling was repeated after four weeks. Well-recognized welfare biomarkers, such as fecal cortisol and leukocytes, as well as some innovative parameters (β-endorphin and lysozyme) were determined. Uni- and multivariate statistical analyses were used to evaluate their interactions and changes over time. Neutrophils (p < 0.01), lysozyme (p < 0.05), and fecal cortisol (p < 0.05) decreased, while lymphocytes (p < 0.05) increased after four weeks compared to the first days of being in the shelter, suggesting an improvement in the dogs’ welfare over time. A principal component analysis extracted three bipolar components (PCs), explaining 75% of the variance and indicating negative associations between neutrophil and lymphocyte (PC1), lysozyme and β-endorphin (PC2), cortisol and lysozyme (PC3). The associations between these variables within each PC also confirmed the intricate relationships between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the immune system as well as the importance of a multiparametric approach in evaluating welfare.
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