The transportation of healthy donkeys can trigger stress and affect the composition of the fecal microbiota, researchers report.
Guimiao Jiang, Xinhao Zhang and their fellow researchers said transportation exposes animals to various potential stress factors, such as loading and unloading, vehicle bumps, crowding, noise, temperature changes, as well as food and water deprivation.
These factors contribute to weight loss, can affect the quality of animal products, increase physical injury, harm immune function, increase susceptibility to disease, and may even lead to death.
“Increasing evidence indicates that transport stress has caused substantial economic losses to the animal industry worldwide,” they wrote in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
“With the development of large-scale donkey farming in China, long-distance transportation has become common practice, and the incidence of intestinal diseases after transportation has increased.”
The study team set out to determine whether the transportation of donkeys disturbs the intestinal microbiota, which is an important factor in health and disease.
The study centered on 12 Dezhou donkeys, none of whom had experienced road transportation before. The animals were trucked from Chifeng City in Inner Mongolia Province to Dong-E City in Shandong Province, which represents a distance of 950km and a travel time of about 21 hours. The trip included 10 stops of no more than 20 minutes for observation of conditions and to provide supplementary feed and water.
Fecal and blood samples were collected before and after transportation for analysis.
Blood samples were tested to assess concentrations of the stress hormone Cortisol, Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH, which stimulates the production of cortisol) and heat-shock protein 90 (HSP90), which is known as a chaperone protein. It assists other proteins to fold properly and stabilizes other proteins against heat stress. It is considered an important stress protein in organisms because it is rapidly activated and synthesized during stress.
Sequencing technology was used to assess the microbial composition in the fecal samples
The researchers reported that there were significant increases in cortisol, ACTH and HSP90 on the day of arrival.
A significantly lower level of bacterial richness was found in fecal samples after transportation, compared with that before transportation, without distinct changes in diversity.
Most notably, donkeys had significant decreases in Atopostipes, Eubacterium, Streptococcus, and Coriobacteriaceae.
“Transportation can induce stress in healthy donkeys and have some effect on the composition of the fecal microbiota,” the authors concluded.
“Additional studies are required to understand the potential effect of these microbiota changes, especially significantly decreased bacteria, on the development intestinal diseases in donkeys during recovery from transportation.”
The full study team comprised Guimiao Jiang, Xinhao Zhang, Weiping Gao, Chuanliang Ji, Yantao Wang, Peixiang Feng, Yulong Feng, Zhiping Zhang, Lin Li and Fuwei Zhao.
Transport stress affects the fecal microbiota in healthy donkeys
Guimiao Jiang, Xinhao Zhang, Weiping Gao, Chuanliang Ji, Yantao Wang, Peixiang Feng, Yulong Feng, Zhiping Zhang, Lin Li, Fuwei Zhao
Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 31 July, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.16235