Course:APBI490/Section 201

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The Biology of Stress in Animals
APBI 490
Section: 201
Instructor: Jeffrey Rushen
Office: TBA
Office Hours: TBA
Class Schedule: TBA
Classroom: TBA
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Course Description

APBI 490 Section 201, The Biology of Stress in Animals, examines how animals respond to various stressors in their lives and the impact on their overall biology, including health. The course examines the knowledge of how to manage stress on animals (farm, companion, zoo, and animals used in research) can improve their health and productivity.


Third year standing or higher; basic physiology; basic animal behaviour recommended. APBI 315 is strongly recommended.

Course Overview

The course will seek to explain how animals respond to stress within the context of their natural lives. The focus will be on understanding stress at the whole animal level. Students in this course will learn the types of challenges and sources of stress that animals kept by people (farm, companion, zoo, and research animals) encounter in their lives, and how these can be understood in terms of the animals' evolutionary background.
The behavioural, cognitive, and physiological responses of animals to stress will be described and explained as attempts at an integrated, adaptive response to the specific stressor. The long term impact of these responses on the animals' overall biological functioning (e.g. growth, reproduction, health) will be examined.
Students will learn to identify some of the more common indicators that animals are under stress and how these can be used to assess the degree to which the animals are coping with the stress. Finally, they will learn how the way animals are bred, housed, and managed by people can result in stress and how practical improvements can help them avoid or respond to the negative impacts of stress.

Course Structure and Operation

The course is proposed as a 3-credit, 1-session course that students will normally take in their fourth year. It is designed especially for Applied Biology students who have an interest in Applied Animal Biology. The envisioned class size is approximately 25 students.
It is proposed that the course will consist of two 1.5-hour classes per week. The classes will include a combination of presentations (by instructors, guests, and students), in-class exercises, and group discussions (whole-class and small-group).

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the types of situations that animals may find stressful, particularly those that result from the way that people house and manage animals, and how these stressors can be understood within the context of the animals' natural lives;
  2. Identify the successful and unsuccessful responses animals make in response to stress and how scientific measurement of these responses can be used to assess how well the animals are coping with a stressor;
  3. Understand how improvements in the way animals are housed, fed, and managed can improve their ability to deal with stress and promote good biological functioning;
  4. Use this information to analyze, critique, interpret, summarize, and communicate findings about the sources of stress for domestic, companion, zoo, and research animals.

Grading and Assessment

Evaluation emphasizes comprehension of the concepts, critical thinking, and independent research as evidenced by three short 1-page written assignments based on critical reading of scientific articles spread evenly over the term (35%), in-class participation (15%), and 3-5 page term paper testing the student's ability to synthesize and evaluate research on a topic covered in the class (25%), and oral presentations to the class testing the student's ability to debate and defend a particular viewpoint on a topic in stress and respond to questions (25%).

Proposed Topics

  • Concepts of stress, scientific measurement and scientific thinking about how domestic animals respond to acute and chronic stress
  • Stress in humans; including animal models of stress
  • The evolutionary background of animals used by people and how this influences what animals perceive as a stressor and how they respond
  • Animals' behavioural, physiological, and immune responses to stress and how these can be understood as an integrated adaptive response
  • Measurement of stress responses and how they can be used to assess the degree to which animals are coping with stress
  • The animals' cognitive mechanisms underlying responses to stress
  • Long term effects of chronic stress on animals' overall biology (e.g growth, production, reproduction, and health)
  • Stress arising from how animals are bred, housed, and handled by people
  • Providing environments that help animals deal with stress

Each class will include a student discussion of a recent scientific paper on some topic in animal stress.

Assigned Readings

There will be no assigned textbook. Instead, students will be assigned specific readings from the primary literature, review articles, and book chapters.

Academic Integrity

The academic enterprise is founded on honesty, civility, and integrity. As members of this enterprise, all students are expected to know, understand, and follow the codes of conduct regarding academic integrity. At the most basic level, this means submitting only original work done by you and acknowledging all sources of information or ideas and attributing them to others as required. This also means you should not cheat, copy, or mislead others about what is your work. Violations of academic integrity (i.e. misconduct) lead to the breakdown of the academic enterprise, and therefore serious consequences arise and harsh sanctions are imposed. For example, incidences of plagiarism or cheating may result in a mark of zero on the assignment or exam and more serious consequences may apply if the matter is referred to the President's Advisory Committee on Student Discipline. Careful records are kept in order to monitor and prevent recurrences.