TABLE 4-1 Example of a decision and response algorithm for unanticipated distress in laboratory animals

Animal Issues

Program Issues

  • Promptly communicate initial observations to principal investigator/study director, clinical veterinarian, facility manager.

  • Promptly and accurately document clinical signs and treatments in the animal’s record.

  • Assess animal’s clinical status and treatment options with respect to the protocol.

  • Evaluate other animals on the same protocol or housed nearby to determine if more animals are possibly in similar distress.

  • Administer emergency veterinary care if indicated and after consultation with the principal investigator/study director.

  • Determine if the distress and accompanying clinical signs are a consequence of experimentation, husbandry error, or other cause.

  • If the animal’s condition is grave and the principal investigator/study director (or designee) cannot be contacted, the animal may be euthanized at the direction of the clinical veterinarian.

  • Reduce or eliminate the source(s) of distress, if know and if compatible with the aims of the protocol.

  • Institute precautionary measures and supportive care if indicated.

  • Notify the IACUC (and possibly regulatory agencies) of significant animal distress.


  • Amend the protocol to avoid or reduce distress in more animals. If altering the protocol will compromise scientific aims or regulatory endpoints, assign animals to a more severe pain/distress category.

al. 1998), while Coleman and colleagues demonstrated that the ability of individual monkeys to respond to conventional training methods is closely correlated with their unique temperament (exploratory or inhibited personalities; Coleman et al. 2005).

The actual causes of distress may also lead to sequelae that require attention even if the underlying cause is not treatable. For example, the clinical signs of a distressed animal often include dehydration and weight loss resulting from anorexia. Provision of supplemental fluids and nutrition may relieve the compounding impact of dehydration or poor body condition on the compromised animal. Supplemental heat, cooling, bedding, social housing, and human companionship are other strategies that make a

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