distressed animal more comfortable. Regardless of the approach selected, it is essential to maintain the dialogue between the investigator, veterinarian, and animal care personnel throughout the treatment phase, because the prognosis and the status of the animal’s condition may change.
Distress resulting from behavioral problems resistant to the relatively simple and straightforward approaches listed above can be especially difficult to treat. It may be appropriate to consider psychotropic medications such as anxiolytics, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and neuroleptics if they are compatible with the research protocol. SSRIs and TCAs have been effective in the treatment of animals with repetitive, self-injurious, and anxiety-based behaviors. A firm diagnosis will aid in the choice of medication, as these drugs have been used to treat assorted behavioral problems in multiple species with varying levels of success (for studies on monkeys see Fontenot et al. 2005; Tiefenbacher et al. 2003, 2005; Weld et al. 1998). Taylor and colleagues used a combination of chlorpromazine, buprenorphine, and environmental enrichment to successfully treat a self-injurious behavior in a rhesus monkey (Taylor et al. 2005). Hugo and colleagues showed that fluoxetine had some efficacy in the reduction of stereotypies in captive vervet monkeys (Hugo et al. 2003). Recent studies have shown that stereotypic behavior in mice responded to self-administered anxiolytics (Olsson and Sherwin 2006). Furthermore, opioid antagonists have been used to treat behaviors with a self-rewarding effect in sows (Cronin et al. 1985). An accurate diagnosis and the preparation of a behavior modification plan should precede the initiation of therapy with any psychotropic medications. The Committee notes that, while interest in the use of psychopharmacological treatment for behavioral modifications is growing, limited research data exist relevant to the effects of these drugs on animal behavior. The Committee cautions that there should be appropriate justification for their use (which should not be the first line of defense), that other behavioral modification measures should be implemented, and that these should be accompanied by careful monitoring of the animal.
Decisions to treat, not treat, or euthanize animals with a severe condition or a poor prognosis should involve the entire research and veterinary support team, whose members should make every possible effort to achieve consensus on the decision regarding the fate of the animal. Regulations, however, mandate that the institution’s Attending Veterinarian retain the ultimate responsibility and authority over the final disposition of the animal (see Figure 4-1). Decisions that call for euthanasia should follow approved methods, which are regularly updated and published (AVMA 2007). Only skilled, compassionate persons, with properly maintained equipment, should perform euthanasia. Proper handling of animals prior to euthanasia is important to avoid inducing further and unnecessary distress. Sources of