Handling pregnant rats - (Jul/07/2009 )
I am looking for some general advice on handling pregnant rats. I have heard that too much handling causes stress and can lead to miscarriages. Whilst the people at the animal house where I keep my animals are very experienced in housing male rats, nobody has any experience in handling pregnant females. I will be getting pregnant dams on E7 (we don't breed at our facility). I need to perform an IV injection and blood sampling on E15. I also need to measure rectal temperature before and after the injection. How much should I handle them between E7 and E15? Daily? Once every two days? Also should I place each dam in a separate cage on arrival on E7 or will this cause separation anxiety? I will be keeping the dams until the pups are born but can leave them in peace after E15. Thanks
If you are the only one to handle them, and you handle them gently (which I know you will), I would try to handle them daily or every second day depending on your own time restraints and the number of rats you are receiving. Rats love interraction and they would be more likely to accept your procedures at E15 (is this the only time you will be performing procedures?)
If you are allowed to feed treats, our rats love peanut butter, nutella, coco pops, fruit loops and sunflower seeds. It would be a great idea if you were to feed treats when you handle them so they quickly become classically conditioned to handling as a positive thing.
I would not separate the females, here in Aust our Code of Practice does not allow rats to be housed as singles unless approval from our Animal Ethics Committee is given. This is because rats are gregarious and become stressed if housed by themselves.
I would be more concerned about the transport to your facility in causing them to abort than your beautiful gentle handling.
Hope this helps