JOURNAL ARTICLE

Long-term effects of husbandry procedures on stress-related parameters in male mice of two strains

P L P Van Loo, E Van der Meer, C L J J Kruitwagen, J M Koolhaas, L F M Van Zutphen, V Baumans
Laboratory Animals 2004, 38 (2): 169-77
15070457
In socially unstable groups of male laboratory mice, individuals may experience a chronic stress situation. Previous experiments have shown that the transfer of specific olfactory cues during cage cleaning, and the provision of nesting material decrease aggression and stress in group-housed male mice. In this study, the combined effect of these husbandry procedures were tested for their long-term effect on stress in groups of moderately aggressive (BALB/c) and severely aggressive (CD-1) male mice. The physiological and behavioural stress-related parameters used were body weight, food and water intake, spleen and thymus weight, adrenal tyrosine hydroxylase activity, urine corticosterone levels and behaviour in a cage emergence test. Long-term provision of nesting material and its transfer during cage cleaning was found to influence several stress-related physiological parameters. Mice housed in cages enriched with nesting material had lower urine corticosterone levels and heavier thymuses, and they consumed less food and water than standard-housed mice. Furthermore, marked differences were found between strains. CD-1 mice were less anxious in the cage emergence test, weighed more, ate and drank more, and had heavier thymuses but lighter spleens and lower corticosterone levels than BALB/c mice. We conclude that the long-term provision of nesting material, including the transfer of nesting material during cage cleaning, reduces stress and thereby enhances the welfare of laboratory mice.

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