environmental relative humidity may be of greater importance for animals housed in a primary enclosure in which the environmental conditions differ greatly from those of the macroenvironment (e.g., in static filter-top [isolator] cages).
Some species may require conditions with high relative humidity (e.g., selected species of nonhuman primates, tropical reptiles, and amphibians; Olson and Palotay 1983). In mice, both abnormally high and low humidity may increase preweaning mortality (Clough 1982). In rats, low relative humidity, especially in combination with temperature extremes, may lead to ringtail, a condition involving ischemic necrosis of the tail and sometimes toes (Crippa et al. 2000; Njaa et al. 1957; Totten 1958). For some species, elevated relative humidity may affect an animal’s ability to cope with thermal extremes. Elevated microenvironmental relative humidity in rodent isolator cages may also lead to high intracage ammonia concentrations (Corning and Lipman 1991; Hasenau et al. 1993), which can be irritating to the nasal passages and alter some biologic responses (Gordon et al. 1980; Manninen et al. 1998). In climates where it is difficult to provide a sufficient level of environmental relative humidity, animals should be closely monitored for negative effects such as excessively flaky skin, ecdysis (molting) difficulties in reptiles, and desiccation stress in semiaquatic amphibians.
The primary purpose of ventilation is to provide appropriate air quality and a stable environment. Specifically, ventilation provides an adequate oxygen supply; removes thermal loads caused by the animals, personnel, lights, and equipment; dilutes gaseous and particulate contaminants including allergens and airborne pathogens; adjusts the moisture content and temperature of room air; and, where appropriate, creates air pressure differentials (directional air flow) between adjoining spaces. Importantly, ventilating the room (i.e., the macroenvironment) does not necessarily ensure adequate ventilation of an animal’s primary enclosure (i.e., the microenvironment), that is, the air to which the animal is actually exposed. The type of primary enclosure may considerably influence the differences between these two environments—for example, differences may be negligible when animals are housed in open caging or pens, whereas they can be significant when static isolator cages are used.
The volume and physical characteristics of the air supplied to a room and its diffusion pattern influence the ventilation of an animal’s primary enclosure and are important determinants of the animal’s microenvironment. The type and location of supply air diffusers and exhaust registers in relation to the number, arrangement, location, and type of primary and secondary enclosures affect how well the microenvironments are ventilated