Veterinary Physiology and Ethology


Gianfranco Gabai, Daniela Bertotto, Lieta Marinelli, Simona Normando, Paolo Mongillo

Research topic

Oxidative stress (OS) is the result of an imbalance between reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and neutralizing capacity of antioxidant mechanisms. A state of OS can be observed, for istance, in the peri-parturient cow, in case of inflammatory diseases or in ageing animals, and can result in substantial damage to mammalian tissues. The research undertaken aims to characterize suitable biomerkers of OS in domestic animals, identify the mechanisms of ROS action and try methods, such as the use of functional food, for contrasting the negative effects of OS.

In common with all vertebrates, fish respond to environmental challenges with a series of adaptive neuro-endocrine adjustments that are collectively termed the stress response. The sum of  these responses is designed to help the animal survive a short-term stressful stimulus but prolonged activation of the stress response is damaging and leads to immuno-suppression, reduced growth and reproductive dysfunction. Fish as the other farmed animals are often submitted to stressful conditions and the identification of indicators associated with the response to chronic stress may provide a potential source of information on the animal welfare status and help to improve farming conditions. With this aim, hormonal concentrations, stress proteins, oxidative stress indicators and other physiological parameters are evaluated in animals reared in different conditions or during farming procedures.

With the aim of improving the integration of dogs into human societies, we are interested in the mechanisms underlying canine social cognition, including the role of emotions, learning and ageing. The research undertaken aims at characterizing the effect of ageing and of the relevance of social partners on attachment, visual attention, visual perception and expression of unwanted behaviors. A specific effort has been oriented to the study of the relationship between dogs and humans during animal assisted interventions

The research activities lie within the field of applied ethology. The main interest is behaviour in animal shelters and other confined environments, such as behavioural evaluation and testing, pet-adopter matching and other strategies to increase successful adoption rate, prevention and treatment of behavioural problems, environmental enrichment and other strategy to increase the quality of life of the animals.