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      Board-invited review: Using behavior to predict and identify ill health in animals.

      Journal of animal science
      Animal Communication, Animal Diseases, diagnosis, psychology, Animal Husbandry, methods, Animals, Behavior, Animal, physiology

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          Abstract

          We review recent research in one of the oldest and most important applications of ethology: evaluating animal health. Traditionally, such evaluations have been based on subjective assessments of debilitative signs; animals are judged ill when they appear depressed or off feed. Such assessments are prone to error but can be dramatically improved with training using well-defined clinical criteria. The availability of new technology to automatically record behaviors allows for increased use of objective measures; automated measures of feeding behavior and intake are increasingly available in commercial agriculture, and recent work has shown these to be valuable indicators of illness. Research has also identified behaviors indicative of risk of disease or injury. For example, the time spent standing on wet, concrete surfaces can be used to predict susceptibility to hoof injuries in dairy cattle, and time spent nuzzling the udder of the sow can predict the risk of crushing in piglets. One conceptual advance has been to view decreased exploration, feeding, social, sexual, and other behaviors as a coordinated response that helps afflicted individuals recover from illness. We argue that the sickness behaviors most likely to decline are those that provide longer-term fitness benefits (such as play), as animals divert resources to those functions of critical short-term value such as maintaining body temperature. We urge future research assessing the strength of motivation to express sickness behaviors, allowing for quantitative estimates of how sick an animal feels. Finally, we call for new theoretical and empirical work on behaviors that may act to signal health status, including behaviors that have evolved as honest (i.e., reliable) signals of condition for offspring-parent, inter- and intra-sexual, and predator-prey communication.

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          Journal
          18952731
          10.2527/jas.2008-1297

          Animal Communication,Animal Diseases,diagnosis,psychology,Animal Husbandry,methods,Animals,Behavior, Animal,physiology

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