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Recognizing Pain in Rodents

A rodent experiencing mild to moderate pain may display only subtle behavioral signs associated with its discomfort. Moderate to severe pain in rodents leads to more obvious changes in normal physiology and behavior. Accurate recognition of these changes requires that research personnel have some knowledge of normal behavior and physiology for the species they are using.

Signs Associated with Moderate to Severe Pain in Rodents

  • Decreased activity or a reluctance to move
  • Abnormal gait or posture
  • Rough, greasy-looking coat
  • Dark, red material around the eyes and nose in rats
  • Decreased appetite
  • Excessive licking or chewing of a body part or area
  • Aggressiveness when handled
  • Eating of bedding material

Signs of Pain Specifically Associated With Rodents After Abdominal Surgery

  • Stretching and back arching
  • Sudden, short muscle wall contractions in the flank area ("writhing')
  • Abdominal pressing onto the cage floor
  • Frequent, sudden short movements

More information on recognizing and managing pain in rodents may be found on the ARP Web site.

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