(all), anorexia (all), rapid or labored respiration (rodents, birds, fish), lack of grooming (mammals and birds), increased aggression (mammals and birds), periocular and nasal porphyrin discharge (rodents), abnormal appearance or posture (all), and immobility (all) (NRC 2008, 2009a). However, some species may mask signs of pain until they are quite severe (NRC 2009a). It is therefore essential that personnel caring for and using animals be trained in species-specific and individual clinical, behavioral, physiologic, and biochemical indicators of well-being (Dubner 1987; Karas 2002; Murrell and Johnson 2006; Rose 2002; Stoskopf 1994; Valverde and Gunkel 2005).

Distress may be defined as an aversive state in which an animal fails to cope or adjust to various stressors with which it is presented. But distress may not induce an immediate and observable pathologic or behavioral alteration, making it difficult to monitor and evaluate the animal’s state when it is present. Both the duration and intensity of the state are important considerations when trying to prioritize attention to and treatment of animal distress. For example, an injection requiring brief immobilization may produce acute stress lasting only seconds, while long-term individual housing of a social species in a metabolic cage may produce chronic distress. Implementation of clear, appropriate, and humane experimental endpoints for animals, combined with close observation during invasive periods of experimentation, will assist in minimizing distress experienced by animals used in research, teaching, testing, and production. Recognition and Alleviation of Distress in Laboratory Animals (NRC 2008) is a resource with important information about distress in experimental animals.


The selection of appropriate analgesics and anesthetics should reflect professional veterinary judgment as to which best meets clinical and humane requirements as well as the needs of the research protocol. The selection depends on many factors, such as the species, age, and strain or stock of the animal, the type and degree of pain, the likely effects of particular agents on specific organ systems, the nature and length of the surgical or pain-inducing procedure, and the safety of the agent, particularly if a physiologic deficit is induced by a surgical or other experimental procedure (Kona-Boun et al. 2005).

Preemptive analgesia (the administration of preoperative and intraoperative analgesia) enhances intraoperative patient stability and optimizes postoperative care and well-being by reducing postoperative pain (Coderre et al. 1993; Hedenqvist et al. 2000). Analgesia may be achieved through timely enteral or parenteral administration of analgesic agents as well as by blocking nociceptive signaling via local anesthetics (e.g., bupivacaine).

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