Balcombe J, Barnard N, Sandusky C. Laboratory routines cause animal stress. Contemp Topics Lab Anim Sci 2004; 43(6): 42-51.
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Eighty published studies were reviewed to document the potential stress associated with three routine laboratory procedures commonly performed on animals: handling, blood collection, and gavage. Handling was defined as any non-invasive manipulation that is part of routine husbandry, such as picking up an animal, and/or cleaning or moving an animal’s cage. Significant changes in stress indicators (e.g., concentrations of corticosterone, glucose, growth hormone or prolactin, heart rate, blood pressure, and/or behavior) were associated with all three procedures in the reviewed studies (reporting primarily on rats, mice, monkeys, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, bats, or birds). Studies showed that animals responded with rapid, pronounced, and statistically significant elevations in stress-related responses to each of the procedures examined. Changes from baseline or control measures typically ranged from 20 to 100 percent or more and lasted from 30 to 60 min or more. These findings 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.