Health Monitoring

Monitoring the health of research animals is a necessary prerequisite to sound science and cost-effective research. Programs traditionally include one element which relies on observational data where animals are monitored for overt signs of disease such as diarrhea, sneezing, lethargy, hair loss, and weight loss. A second element uses diagnostic tests to identify clinical conditions. The animal care and veterinary staff, working in conjunction with investigators and their technicians, normally observe, diagnose, and treat clinical conditions.

Unfortunately, these methods alone do not satisfy the needs of modern research conducted with genetically and microbiologically defined animals. Monitoring animals for evidence of subclinical infections is necessary to detect and eliminate disease to minimize the impact on research results. In the following paragraphs, surveillance methodologies used to monitor colonies of rodents for the presence of unwanted pathogens are discussed.

When developing a program for health monitoring of laboratory animals, the first decision to make is what pathogens should be prevented from being introduced into the colony or should be detected at an early stage of infection. Common pathogens of mice, rats, hamsters, and rabbits are presented in Table 1.1.1. The investigator and veterinarian should discuss the various pathogens, their prevalence, potential impact on research, and the feasibility of including select agents in the monitoring program. Facility, staff, and budgetary factors must be considered. A decision for including an agent in a monitoring pro-

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