Eighty published studies were appraised to document the potential stress associated with three routine laboratory procedures commonly performed on animals: handling, blood collection, and orogastric gavage. We defined handling as any non-invasive manipulation occurring as part of routine husbandry, including lifting an animal and cleaning or moving an animal's cage. Significant changes in physiologic parameters correlated with stress (e.g., serum or plasma concentrations of corticosterone, glucose, growth hormone or prolactin, heart rate, blood pressure, and behavior) were associated with all three procedures in multiple species in the studies we examined. The results of these studies demonstrated that animals responded with rapid, pronounced, and statistically significant elevations in stress-related responses for each of the procedures, although handling elicited variable alterations in immune system responses. Changes from baseline or control measures typically ranged from 20% to 100% or more and lasted at least 30 min or longer. We interpret these findings to indicate that laboratory routines are associated with stress, and that animals do not readily habituate to them. The data suggest that significant fear, stress, and possibly distress are predictable consequences of routine laboratory procedures, and that these phenomena have substantial scientific and humane implications for the use of animals in laboratory research.
Balcombe, J. P., Barnard, N. D., & Sandusky, C. (2004). Laboratory routines cause animal stress. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, 43(6), 42-51.
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