Assessment of Pain and Well-being in Laboratory Mice

Laboratory mice are currently the most common animal species used in research and testing. There is an ethical imperative to optimize well-being, and a scientific imperative to reduce unwanted variables in studies of these important research animals. Hence, the development of methods to assess how mice feel enable us to study ways to treat pain and distress and monitor their status as disease models.

The core of the Center for Animals and Public Policy's work involves looking at what mice normally do: their movements, eating and nest building behavior. Then we can discover the extent to which their daily behaviors are suppressed by pain or disease and restored by treatments or altered environment. Following the Center's ethical principles, we conduct much of our observational work in mice already on study so that there is no net cause of additional harm.

Detailed video analysis and other sophisticated methods are pursued to study more complex problems such as what dose and types of pain medication are best for surgery. But the Center also seeks to develop simple measures for use in daily clinical or cage-side assessment of mice housed in the research facility. If we discover that mice are quite abnormal in certain situations, we might call into question the results of research, just as we would if humans in a large scale clinical trial were found to have unsuspected underlying disease or exposure. The Center believe that understanding how a normal mouse should look and behave is going to be more and more important over the next decade.