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Keywords:

  • glucocorticoids;
  • cortisol;
  • corticosterone;
  • catecholamines;
  • feces;
  • adrenaline;
  • epinephrine;
  • metabolism;
  • excretion;
  • noninvasive monitoring

Abstract: A multitude of endocrine mechanisms are involved in coping with challenges. Front-line hormones to overcome stressful situations are glucocorticoids (GCs) and catecholamines (CAs). These hormones are usually determined in plasma samples as parameters of adrenal activity and thus of disturbance. GCs (and CAs) are extensively metabolized and excreted afterwards. Therefore, the concentration of GCs (or their metabolites) can be measured in various body fluids or excreta. Above all, fecal samples offer the advantages of easy collection and a feedback-free sampling procedure. However, large differences exist among species regarding the route and time course of excretion, as well as the types of metabolites formed. Based on information gained from radiometabolism studies (reviewed in this paper), we recently developed and successfully validated different enzyme immunoassays that enable the noninvasive measurement of groups of cortisol or corticosterone metabolites in animal feces. The determination of these metabolites in fecal samples can be used as a powerful tool to monitor GC production in various species of domestic, wildlife, and laboratory animals.