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Murid stress odours: a review and a 'low tech' method of collection

By G. J. Mason, J. Dallaire, N. Ware

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Abstract

Stress cues can affect the welfare of animals in close proximity and are possibly useful non-invasive indicators of the emitters' welfare. To facilitate their study in murids, we tested whether rats' stress odours could be collected and stored using an enfleurage-type technique. 'Donor' rats were individually exposed to a compound stressor (carried circa 75 m inside a novel container, then euthanised with rising carbon dioxide) while on blotting paper dotted with melted vegetable lard. These sheets were sealed, left at room temperature for 2-5 h, and then 'bioassayed' by a blind observer for their effects on conspecifics. Compared with control sheets (exposed to unstressed rats, to CO2 alone, or untreated), stress-exposed sheets significantly affected the unconditioned behaviour of 16 pairs of detector rats trained to enter an arena from their home cage to obtain sucrose. When used to line this arena, the stress-exposed sheets significantly increased: (i) rats' latencies to eat, to place front feet into, and to completely step into the arena and (ii) shuttling movements between arena and home cage. These pilot data thus suggest that odours produced by stressed rats can be simply and successfully collected and stored for several hours, though certain potential confounds (eg urine volume) may conceivably be alternative explanations for the observed effects. Future work should control for urine volume, and assess whether fat is needed for optimal odour absorption by paper and for how long sheets can be stored at various temperatures. Much fundamental work is also still needed on the nature, functions, and sources of stress odours.

Date 2009
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 18
Issue 3
Pages 301-310
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada. gmason@uoguelph.ca
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Tags
  1. Animal rights
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Carbon dioxide
  4. Indicators
  5. Mammals
  6. Methodologies
  7. Methods
  8. odors
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. Rats
  11. Rodents
  12. storage
  13. sucrose
  14. sugar
  15. Techniques
  16. temperatures
  17. urine
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed