Prolactin has been recently regarded as a potential biomarker of both acute and chronic stress in several species. Since only few studies until now have focussed on domestic dogs, this study was aimed at evaluating whether prolactin, cortisol and stress behaviour correlated with each other in sheltered dogs. Both cortisol and prolactin analysis were performed in serum samples through a hormone-specific ELISA kit. For each dog, a stress score was calculated by summing the number of occurrences of stress-related behaviours. The presence/absence of fear during the time spent in the collection room was also scored for each individual. Results revealed a weak negative correlation between cortisol and prolactin levels. Neither of the hormones was correlated with the stress score, nor did their values seem to be influenced by showing fear in the collection room. The weak negative correlation found between cortisol and prolactin values agrees with results obtained in other studies, indicating that prolactin response might be an alternative to cortisol response. This, together with the high serum prolactin levels compared to those reported by other authors for healthy domestic dogs, may indicate that prolactin might be a good biomarker of chronic stress, and although further studies are needed to better understand the potential role of prolactin in the evaluation of canine welfare.
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