Despite advances in replacements for animal models in medical testing, we have yet to find a comprehensive and viable replacement for animal models. Until that time comes, modern research will continue to be driven by established ethical principles, such as the 3Rs and the 5 Freedoms. The minimization of animal discomfort and suffering is of utmost importance, achieving this also provides researchers with generalizable data. Failing to do so not only causes unnecessary suffering, it negates the purpose of the research as the animal’s capacity to be models for humans would be undermined by negative health status.
The collection of accurate and generalizable data is contingent on happy and healthy test animals, thus any efforts to enrich the lives of laboratory animals is essential to effective research. The 3Rs, Reduction, Replacement & Refinement, is an initiative in line with this goal. Briefly summarized, the goal of 3Rs is to reduce the suffering of animals by decreasing the number of animals used in research, replacing animals with alternatives wherever possible, and refining current research practices to further reduce suffering. The initiative of the 3R’s has contributed significant positive change in the lives of laboratory animals and has improved the quality of collected data. Refinements like social housing for rats & dogs appreciably improved their overall health and quality of life. Replacements such as the use of in-vitro human cells for migration & proliferation assays have helped reduce the number of animals required for research.
Some study designs however, present issues that require creativity and ingenuity to overcome. When working with dogs, exercise is an important form enrichment, both in terms of social development during play with other dogs, and in terms of releasing excess energy. Exercise is very simple with the overwhelming majority of study designs and test item administration methods. Continuous infusion studies however, present unique challenges that need to be overcome.
In this newsletter, we discuss the importance of exercise as a form of enrichment, issues associated with continuous infusion studies with dogs, and how ITR has created a novel solution to allow for exercise where it was previously not possible.