Effects of heat stress on the gut health of poultry
Stress is a biological adaptive response to restore homeostasis, and occurs in every animal production system, due to the multitude of stressors present in every farm. Heat stress is one of the most common environmental challenges to poultry worldwide. It has been extensively demonstrated that heat stress negatively impacts the health, welfare, and productivity of broilers and laying hens. However, basic mechanisms associated with the reported effects of heat stress are still not fully understood. The adaptive response of poultry to a heat stress situation is complex and intricate in nature, and it includes effects on the intestinal tract. This review offers an objective overview of the scientific evidence available on the effects of the heat stress response on different facets of the intestinal tract of poultry, including its physiology, integrity, immunology, and microbiota. Although a lot of knowledge has been generated, many gaps persist. The development of standardized models is crucial to be able to better compare and extrapolate results. By better understanding how the intestinal tract is affected in birds subjected to heat stress conditions, more targeted interventions can be developed and applied.