It has been demonstrated that even minimal handling of mice and rats is stressful to the animals. Handling for cage changing and other noninvasive procedures causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological parameters, such as serum corticosterone levels. Fluctuations can continue for up to several hours. The methods of restraint required for injections and blood withdrawals also cause physiological changes that can potentially affect scientific data. Training in the proper handling of mice and rats is required to minimize the effects to the animals.1
Handling of Adolescent Rats Improves Learning and Memory and Decreases Anxiety
Some environmental interventions can result in physiologic and behavioral changes in laboratory animals. In this context, the handling of adolescent or adult rodents has been reported to influence exploratory behavior and emotionality. Here we examined the effects of handling on memory and anxiety levels of adolescent rats. Male Sprague–Dawley rats (age, 60 d) were divided into a control group and a handled group, which were handled for 5 min daily, 5 d per week, for 6 wk. During handling bouts, the rat was removed from its cage, placed in the experimenter’s lap or on the top of a table, and had its neck and back gently stroked by the experimenter’s fingers.
The Effect of Handling Method on the Mouse Grimace Scale in Two Strains of Laboratory Mice
Pain assessment in laboratory animals is an ethical and legal requirement. The mouse grimace scale (MGS) is a new method of pain assessment deemed to be both accurate and reliable, and observers can be rapidly trained to use it. In order for a new pain assessment technique to be effective, we must ensure that the score awarded by the technique is only influenced by pain and not by other husbandry or non-painful but integral aspects of research protocols. Here, we studied 16 male mice, housed under standard laboratory conditions. Eight mice were randomly assigned to tail handling and eight to tube handling on arrival at the unit. On each occasion the mice were removed from their cage for routine husbandry, they were picked up using their assigned handling method.
Environmental factors play a significant role in well-being of laboratory animals. Regulations and guidelines recommend, if not require, that stressors such as bright lighting, smells, and noises are eliminated or reduced to maximize animal well-being. A factor that is often overlooked is handling and how researchers interact with their animals. Researchers, lab assistants, and husbandry staff in animal facilities may use inconsistent handling methods when interacting with rodents, but humans should be considered a part of the animal’s social environment. This study examined the effects of different handling techniques on depressive-like behavior, measured by the Porsolt forced swim test, in adult C57BL/6J male mice.
Mouse handling during cage changing and health evaluation has traditionally been performed by using forceps. This method was adopted as a biosecurity measure but can adversely affect employee ergonomics and rodent behavior. In this study, we evaluated alternative methods of rodent handling and their potential implications for efficiency, biosecurity, and animal welfare. Study groups included plastic cups, gloved hands, 2 methods of tunnel handling, and forceps. Evaluations included speed of cage change, ATP-based assessment of sanitization, and retrospective analysis of colony health and breeding data. The time to change 14 cages was significantly faster at each time point for the gloved hands and forceps groups as compared with the other methods. Overall speed did not increase significantly with each subsequent study week for any group.