Olfactory variation in mouse husbandry and its implications for refinement and standardisation: UK survey of non-animal scents

Lopez-Salesansky, N and Mazlan, N H and Whitfield, L E and Wells, D J and Burn, C C (2016) Olfactory variation in mouse husbandry and its implications for refinement and standardisation: UK survey of non-animal scents. Laboratory Animals, 50 (4). pp. 286-295.

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Abstract

With their highly sensitive olfactory system, the behaviour and physiology of mice are not only influenced by the scents of conspecifics and other species, but also by many other chemicals in the environment. The constraints of laboratory housing limit a mouse’s capacity to avoid aversive odours that could be present in the environment. Potentially odorous items routinely used for husbandry procedures, such as sanitizing products and gloves, could be perceived by mice as aversive or attractive, and affect their behaviour, physiology and experimental results. A survey was sent to research institutions in the UK to enquire about husbandry practices that could impact on the olfactory environment of the mouse. Responses were obtained from 80 individuals working in 51 institutions. Husbandry practices varied considerably. Seventy percent of respondents reported always wearing gloves for handling mice, with nitrile being the most common glove material (94%) followed by latex (23%) and vinyl (14%). Over six different products were listed for cleaning surfaces, floors, anaesthesia and euthanasia chambers and behavioural apparatus. In all cases Trigene™ (now called Anistel™) was the most common cleaning product used (43, 41, 40 and 49%, respectively). Depending on the attribute considered, between 7 and 19% of respondents thought that cleaning products definitely, or were likely to, have strong effects on standardization, mouse health, physiology or behaviour. Understanding whether and how these odours affect mouse welfare will help to refine mouse husbandry and experimental procedures through practical recommendations, to improve the quality of life of laboratory animals and the experimental data obtained.