Blenkuš, U., Gerós, A. F., Carpinteiro, C. et al. 2022. Non-invasive assessment of mild stress-induced hyperthermia by infrared thermography in laboratory mice. Animals 12(2), 177.

Stress-induced hyperthermia (SIH) is a physiological response to acute stressors in mammals, shown as an increase in core body temperature, with redirection of blood flow from the periphery to vital organs. Typical temperature assessment methods for rodents are invasive and can themselves elicit SIH, affecting the readout. Infrared thermography (IRT) is a promising non-invasive alternative, if shown to accurately identify and quantify SIH. We used in-house developed software ThermoLabAnimal 2.0 to automatically detect and segment different body regions, to assess mean body (Tbody) and mean tail (Ttail) surface temperatures by IRT, along with temperature (Tsc) assessed by reading of subcutaneously implanted PIT-tags, during handling-induced stress of pair-housed C57BL/6J and BALB/cByJ mice of both sexes (N = 68). SIH was assessed during 10 days of daily handling (DH) performed twice per day, weekly voluntary interaction tests (VIT) and an elevated plus maze (EPM) at the end. To assess the discrimination value of IRT, we compared SIH between tail-picked and tunnel-handled animals, and between mice receiving an anxiolytic drug or vehicle prior to the EPM. During a 30 to 60 second stress exposure, Tsc and Tbody increased significantly (p < 0.001), while Ttail (p < 0.01) decreased. We did not find handling-related differences. Within each cage, mice tested last consistently showed significantly higher (p < 0.001) Tsc and Tbody and lower (p < 0.001) Ttail than mice tested first, possibly due to higher anticipatory stress in the latter. Diazepam-treated mice showed lower Tbody and Tsc, consistent with reduced anxiety. In conclusion, our results suggest that IRT can identify and quantify stress in mice, either as a stand-alone parameter or complementary to other methods.

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