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Playful handling of laboratory rats is more beneficial when applied before than after routine injections

By S. Cloutier, K. L. Wahl, J. Panksepp, R. C. Newberry

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The ability of positive affective states to counteract negative states engendered by routine medical procedures remains poorly studied. In laboratory rats, positive affect typically associated with rough-and-tumble play can be induced through human "hand play" - the experience of being "tickled" by a human in a manner mimicking the social interactions normally occurring during physical-social play. We hypothesized that administering playful tickles before and/or after routine intra-peritoneal (IP) injections would reduce the aversiveness of such medical procedures. Accordingly, from 32 to 41 days of age, male Sprague-Dawley rats ( N=96) were either given a daily IP saline injection (INJ), or restrained similarly but not injected (control, CON), and exposed to one of four experimental treatments: no tickling, namely, left undisturbed before and after the restraint procedure (TN), or tickled for 2 min immediately before (TB), after (TA), or before and after (TBA) the restraint procedure. Rat affective response measures included rates of 50- and 22-kHz ultrasonic vocalization (USV) (validated as indicators of positive and negative affect, respectively), as well as audible vocalization rates (indicating pain and discomfort), duration of the restraint procedure, and ease-of-handling scores. Comparing INJ with CON conditions, injections reduced 50-kHz USV during (CON: 98.993.54 calls/min, INJ: 59.22.42, P0.05). Tickling did not affect the responses of rats to injection, specifically, but increased 50-kHz USV compared to TN during the period(s) when applied (Before - TN: 8.31.18, TB: 150.73.16, TA: 30.92.19, TBA: 154.43.04; After - TN: 12.41.39, TB: 72.52.59, TA: 150.53.59, TBA: 182.62.67, P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 164
Pages 81-90
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.12.012
Language English
Author Address Center for the Study of Animal Well-being, Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience, Washington State University, P.O. Box 647620, Pullman, WA 99164-7620,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal models
  3. Animals
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Cleaning
  6. Effect
  7. Handling
  8. Indicators
  9. Injection
  10. Interactions
  11. Laboratory and experimental animals
  12. Laboratory animal science
  13. Mammals
  14. models
  15. Pain
  16. Parasites
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. ratings
  19. Rats
  20. restraint
  21. Rodents
  22. Storage and Transport Equipment
  23. vertebrates
  24. vocalizations
  1. peer-reviewed