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However, individuals at small institutions or facilities lacking a large, departmentally based animal resource unit, and individuals who need to develop a research program for hamsters and gerbils from scratch, may gain the most benefit from this handbook. In smaller institutions, individuals who perform animal research often hold the responsibilities associ- ated with animal facility management, animal husbandry, reg- ulatory compliance, and performance of technical procedures directly related to research projects.

Basic information and common procedures which fall under the chap- ter scope are presented in detail. However, information such as alternative techniques, or details of procedures and methods which are beyond the scope of this handbook, are referenced. The references direct the user to additional information without having to wade through voluminous detail here. This handbook should be viewed as a basic reference source and not as an exhaustive review of the biology and use of the hamster and gerbil.

The final chapter on "Resources" provides the user with lists of possible sources and suppliers and additional information on hamster and gerbils, as well as sources for feed, sanitation supplies, cages, and research and veterinary supplies. The lists are not exhaustive and does not imply endorsement of listed suppliers over those not listed; they are a starting point for users to develop their own lists of preferred vendors of such items.

Chapter 6 contains tables which list vendors of cages and research and veterinary supplies by number and is followed by a list of contact information for these suppliers. A final critical point is that each individual involved in animal care and use must recognize that the humane care and use of hamsters and gerbils is a fundamental principal of good research.

Field, DVM. Field is the author of 20 publications and abstracts cov- ering a variety of aspects of laboratory animal science. Amber L. Sibold recieved her undergraduate degree from Penn State Uni- versity. The Syrian hamster and Mongolian gerbil have been used extensively in research for a variety of disciplines. Therefore, unless noted otherwise, the information in this handbook will focus on the Syrian hamster Figure 1 , the most commonly used hamster species in the laboratory,1 and the Mongolian gerbil Figure 2. Most ham- sters used as laboratory animals appear to be descendants of 3 to 4 littermates that were captured and imported from Aleppo, Syria in Because of their origin in Syria and their reddish golden-brown color, they are often referred to as the Syrian hamster, golden hamster, or golden Syrian hamster.

The Syrian hamster belongs to the taxonomic order Rodentia, family Cridetidae. The genus and species is Mesocricetus auratus. Hamster Breeds As mentioned previously, the Syrian hamster, Mesocricetus auratus, is the most frequently used hamster species in the. An adult Syrian hamster, Mesocricetus auratus. Cour- tesy of Mr. Foster, Jr. An adult Mongolian gerbil, Meriones unguiculatus. Less commonly used breeds include the Striped or Chinese hamster, Cricetulus griseus; the European hamster, Cricetus cricetus; the Djungarian hamster, Phodopus sungorus; and the Armenian hamster, Cricetulus migratorius.

A more com- plete listing of hamster breeds and classifications can be found elsewhere. Hamster Behavior Although hamsters are not naturally aggressive toward their handlers,1 they will display this behavior if they are startled, suddenly awakened, or roughly handled. Similarly, an unrecep- tive breeding female may bite when handled. Since hamsters are nocturnal and usually sleeping when first approached, it is important to awaken the hamster before you handle it.

Hamsters are compatible within their own species, regardless of sex, if they have been weaned and raised together. As adults, hamsters are aggressive towards unfamiliar animals of their own and the opposite sex when the new animal is introduced into their group, with the exception being the female in heat. A female in heat will usually be receptive to an unfamiliar male.

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They are escape-prone so the cage lid must fit securely or they will push their way out. Hamsters will hoard food in their cheek pouches and at specific sites within their cages. They are used for territorial marking. A hamster inside a PVC pipe fitting. Objects in the cage that hamsters can climb in and through provide enrichment.

Incisors and molars are open rooted. Males are more prone to caries than females. A smaller retrolingual gland is associated with the submaxillary gland. They are used to hoard and carry food. They are occasionally used for tumor implant studies and are believed to be immuno- logically protected. The hamster's stomach is compartmentalized into two distinct regions: the non- glandular forestomach and the glandular stomach Fig- ure 5 The forestomach is lined with keratinized epithelium, much like the forestomach of a ruminant, has a higher pH than the glandular stomach, and con- tains microflora and volatile fatty acids much like those found in the rumen of sheep and cattle.

The esophagus empties into the forestomach. The glandular stomach is similar to that found in monogastric animals. An everted hamster cheek pouch. Photo courtesy of Dr. Susan Gibson, University of Southern Alabama. The hamster has an orbital venous sinus similar to the mouse. Anatomy of the hamster stomach. The structures are the esophagus A , nonglandular forestomach B , glandular stomach C , and the pyloric region of the stomach D , which empties into the small intestine. Mongolian gerbil. The Mongolian gerbil, like the hamster, belongs to the order Rodentia, family Cridetidae.

The Latin genus species name for the Mongolian gerbil is Meriones unguicula- tus. Gerbil Breeds About breeds of gerbils have been described,11 ranging in size from that of a mouse to that of an adult Norway rat. As mentioned previously, the most common gerbil used for research is the Mongolian gerbil, Meriones unguiculatus. Other breeds mentioned in gerbil fancier magazines, and occasionally the scientific literature, include Meriones shawi, Meriones libycus, Meriones persicus, Gerbillus amoenus, and Gerbillus pyramidum.

Gerbil Behavior Gerbils are gentile and docile by nature,8 intensely curious, will use plastic enrichment devices to climb on and play in Figure 6 , and have a reputation for sticking their nose into. Gerbils are intensely curious and, like hamsters, will express their exploratory behavior and gain enrichment through the addition of enrichment devices to their cage.

They live in colonies in their natural environment, naturally burrow, and are known to constantly scratch the cage floor with their front and hind paws. Gerbils have been known to damage the floor of a plastic cage from their burrowing behavior. Most gerbils are active throughout the hour period, with only slight differences during the dark phase.

Both sexes will naturally hoard food, with the female more prone to hoarding than the male. Gerbils will form a strong pair bond, mating for life and breeding throughout the year. Intro- duction of a new mating partner after one of the original partners dies often leads to fighting and death of the new member. When they are ready to fight, they will push each other with their heads and begin to box and wrestle.

There are seizure-prone and seizure-resistant strains available. The male rubs this gland against objects to mark his territory, a behavior that is androgen depen- dent. Gerbils with a black coat color tend to mark terri- tory more frequently than those with a brown coat. As a result, ligation of one carotid artery will result in a cerebral infarct on the side ipsilateral to the ligation.

The incidence of caries increases after 6 months of age. The values are representative of those in the Syrian hamster and Mongolian gerbil. The normative values found in the tables can vary signif- icantly due to factors such as differences between individual animals, breeds, age, sex, housing conditions, disease status, laboratories, and sampling methods, therefore, these tables are provided as guidelines.

It is imperative that each laboratory establish their own normal reference values. Values are pre- sented as an average or a range from data given in References 1, 5, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, and TABLE 1. Chromosome number 44 44 Life span years No. TABLE 2. TABLE 3. TABLE 4. The well-being of all laboratory animals is inseparably linked to the quality of management of the physical environment in the animal facility.

The term microen- vironment refers to the internal environment of the cage the animal is housed in. The physical environment within the microenvironment includes the intracage temperature, humid- ity, air exchange rate, ammonia and carbon dioxide concentra- tions, and illumination level. The components of the microenvironment will differ with changes in the type of cage provided to the animal e. Macroenvironment Considerations room construction features Hamsters and gerbils can be housed in animal rooms designed for rats and mice.

As with any animal room, those housing hamsters and gerbils should be located in an area that has minimal noise. The room should have a close proximity to support areas associated with the research project that the animal is used in. This minimizes the need to transport the animals long distances to perform procedures. A self-closing door with a door sweep will prevent an escaped animal from leaving the room.

The door should also be fin- ished with a material that prevents and resists corrosion. Cage bumper guards also assist in the protection of doors. Walls are often painted with epoxy paint to achieve this effect. The floor and wall surfaces should also be nonabsorbent, impact-resistant, and resistant to deterioration from detergents, disinfec- tants, urine, and other materials that may contact them. Generally, floors should be smooth, allowing equipment to roll freely, and they should support the equipment and racks rolled across them without cracking.


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Com- monly used flooring materials include urethanes; epoxies; sheet vinyl; acrylics such as methylmethacry- late; quarry tile; and sealed, hardened concrete. The slope should not cause racks to tip when being moved into the room, or to rest in an unleveled position after being placed in the room.

Wall materials should be impact- resistant, and may include a bumper guard or rail, corner guards, and base cants to prevent damage from equip- ment. Commonly used materials include concrete block, gypsum wallboard, tile, or cement board. The wall sur- face is often coated with epoxy paint. All cracks, crevices, and joints should be sealed on all floors and walls.

Consideration should be given to using a sealant or caulk that prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi. Typical ceiling finishes include gypsum wall board, fiber- glass reinforced panels, and mylar-coated panels or a ceiling grid system comprised of fiberglass, baked enamel, stainless steel, or aluminum panels. The room environment should be closely controlled and monitored so as to prevent fluctuations in the temperature, humidity, the light cycle, ammonia concentrations, and the hourly rate of air exchanges.

Assortment of multiple caging used for hamsters and gerbils. Both solid-bottom and wire-bottom cages are shown. Gerbil caging standards are not provided in either of the above references. Gerbils are typically housed in plastic or metal cages see Figures 7 to 10 used for hamsters, mice, or rats. Solid flooring with bedding is preferred by gerbils. A plastic aquarium may also be used. When hamsters are placed in wire-bottom cages, the spacing of the wires must be narrow enough so that their feet do not pass through and become injured.

Typical shelf rack containing solid-bottom cages and an automatic watering system. Typical shelf rack containing wire-bottom cages and an automatic watering system. The unit shown is mechanically ventilated with self-contained intake and exhaust units. Since gerbils often sit up on their hind feet, the cage height provided to rats of 7 inches of internal height is adequate for an adult breeding pair. Pine shavings or saw dust are not recommended because the fur will become greasy and will mat. Likewise, overhead sipper tubes used for rats and mice are often too high for weanling and suckling hamsters to reach.

Caging materials should be designed to be smooth and imper- vious to moisture and liquids, corrosion resistant, withstand deterioration during decontamination and provide adequate floor support for the animals housed within the enclosure. TABLE 5. TABLE 6. Therefore, the cage lid of solid- bottom cages must secure firmly to the cage side to prevent escape. For wire-bottom cages, the juncture of the walls to the top of the cage must fit snugly to prevent animals from escaping. Escape-proof caging is required for hamsters and gerbils. Note that the lid locks down on this cage.

This cage also contains a cage card, water bottle, and enrichment tubing. Solid-bottom caging with contact bedding, although more labor intensive to maintain, is a more natural environment for hamsters and gerbils. They instinctively burrow, grow more rapidly, and experience fewer stress-related deaths than animals housed in wire-bottom cages. The addition of tissues or cotton bedding material will also improve litter yields for hamsters.

Stainless-steel cages, when provided with a solid back and sides and a wire-mesh front, will allow hamsters to seek their own level of privacy in the darker corners of the cage. Hamsters on wire floors exhibit greater hoarding behavior and spend less time gnawing than solid-bottom housed animals. It is important to note that hamsters have a tendency to sleep in piles. Suspended cages are not acceptable in a breeding colony, or for mothers with a litter because the pups may fall through, and they may also develop hypothermia and die. Since hamsters go to great extremes to remove food from overhead feeders, feed may be put on the floor.

Environmental Conditions The animal housing environment should be controlled to minimize variations in the temperature, humidity, and lighting levels. Otherwise, variations in these parameters may introduce unwanted variables into an experiment. Performance of the heating, cooling, ventilation, humidity, and lighting systems can be monitored through the use of a hand-held meter Figure 12 , physical room check for light activation and deactivation, or continuously for all three parameters through a centralized monitoring system.

The laboratory hamster is derived from a desert environment and the gerbil from a semi-arid environment, thus both adapt fairly well to the laboratory environment. In general, it can be said that the environmental conditions acceptable for rats and mice can be applied to hamsters and gerbils. They have a tendency to be aggressive when awakened. In contrast, gerbils housed in a laboratory environment usually show activity throughout the hour period, with only slight differences during the dark phase of the light cycle. A hand-held temperature and humidity monitoring device can be used to measure the environmental parameters within the animal facility.

This piece of equipment, as with other monitoring devices used within the animal facility, should be calibrated within a scheduled interval. For hamsters, a 14 on : off cycle is optimal for breeding colonies. Female hamsters with litters are particularly irritable, and sud- den noises or disturbances will promote this behavior.

Enrichment devices such as PCV tubing, feeders, balls, and cotton nesting material may be added to the cage. Hamsters enjoy exercise wheels and others toys such as small boxes, plastic or cardboard tubing, tin cans, and other objects which they can climb into and on Figure Whatever type of enrichment device is added to their environment, it should be non-toxic and sanitizable.

Gerbils are usually housed in pairs after sexual maturity. If they have been separated from one another for a period of time, or have been individually housed, they will fight when a pair bond or group housing is set up. This may be avoided by placing the gerbils in a neutral cage at the time the cage is changed, providing areas for newly introduced animals to hide a cup, metal dish, etc. Gerbils are very aggressive chewers and will destroy enrichment devices quickly.

Although the hamster diet should be capable of supporting growth, reproduction, lactation, and adult mainte- nance, there is little information on the nutrient requirements for the hamster when compared to other laboratory rodents. Supplement- ing the diet with fruits and vegetables should not be necessary if the laboratory diet is of high quality. In addition, providing fruits and vegetables may be contraindicated as this may be a route of exposure to unwanted bacteria or other contaminants.

Food should be stored properly at temperatures recommended by the manufacturer, with strict adherence to recommended shelf life. The storage area should be clean, uncluttered, and regularly sanitized see Figure Both natural and manufactured food products are commonly given to hamsters and gerbils.

Natural food products often provide a source of both nutrition and water. Food storage should occur in a dedicated feed storage area. The food should be stored off the floor and the area should be sanitized regularly. The temperature and humidity should be set at a level that will maximize the shelf life and reduce spoilage of food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.

Failure to provide adequate vitamin E can result in deaths of fetuses and muscular dystrophy in weanlings. Lactating females also require increased water intake, otherwise milk production will decrease and the young will starve. Due to this behavior, it is acceptable to place pelleted food on the floor of the hamster cage. Although little is known about the nutritional requirements of gerbils, they are known to be grainivorous or herbivorous.

Young gerbils begin eating at around 2 weeks of age, and may have difficulty getting to food if the food bowl is too high; it may be necessary to provide some food on the cage floor. Adult gerbils will consume 5 to 8 grams of food per day. Fig Natural food provides a source of nutrition, water, and enrichment.

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Gerbils are not coprophagic when fed a commercially available rodent diet ad libitum. However, they may become coprophagic when fed a nutritionally incomplete diet. Therefore, adult gerbils housed in a laboratory environment must be provided with a continuous supply of clean water see Figure 17 , and will drink 4 to 7 ml water daily. When using an automatic watering system, the water line must be flushed when the rack is initially hooked up. This flushes all the air out of the system, ensuring that fresh water is distributed throughout the system.

Cage Cleaning Frequency For animals housed in solid-bottom cages, bedding changes are needed to separate the animal from exposure to feces and urine that build up in the cage. In addition, fresh bedding provides new, clean material to keep the animals clean and dry. Types of bedding used in solid-bottom cages include purified wood pulp, chopped corncob, hardwood, cellulose fiber ham- sters and gerbils , and sand gerbil Figure As discussed with food, bedding should be stored properly in an area that is clean, uncluttered and regularly sanitized Figure Typically, with solid-bottom caging, the entire cage unit is changed when the bedding is changed.

With suspended wire- bottom caging, the pan below the cage, which may or may not contain bedding, is changed more frequently that the actual cage itself. Water bottles and feed hoppers should be changed at a frequency that provides animals with fresh clean water and food at all times. The frequency of cage sanitation is dependent on the fre- quency of bedding changes, the type of cage used solid-bottom versus wire bottom , and the density of animals within the cage. A variety of contact bedding materials are used for hamsters and gerbils including clockwise from bottom left : manufactured cellulose cubes, wood pulp, hardwood chips, corncob, and sand center.

Bedding, like feed, should be stored off the floor in a room that is on a regular sanitation schedule. Usually the primary enclosure and accessories wire lids, water bottles, cage rack, and automatic watering system should be sanitized at least every 14 days. This frequency may increase or decrease, depending on the number of animals housed in a primary enclosure, the size of the primary enclosure, or other reasons, such as not wanting to disturb a female near parturi- tion. For animals housed in wire-bottom cages, urine and feces drop through to the litter pan below the cage, and water is often supplied through an automatic watering system.

Under these conditions, the noncontact bedding is often changed 1 to 3 times per week, again depending on the housing density of the cage. The cages and racks are usually changed every 14 days. Special Circumstances During prepartum, postpartum, and breeding periods, fre- quent cage and bedding changes may be contraindicated. Pher- omones necessary for breeding may be removed during the cleaning process and alter breeding results. Methods of Cage Sanitation Cage sanitation can be broken down into 3 or 4 phases, and it is helpful if the workflow and cage wash are designed or organized to complement these phases.

Phase 1: Cage disassembly and prewash, removes gross con- tamination from the cage. Solid-bottom cages are dumped and bedding that is adhering to the cage is scraped free. A bedding dump station should be used to minimize exposure of the per- sonnel to the soiled bedding. Caging prewash, may be used to pretreat cages prior to washing. For example, cages may be hosed down prior to washing.

Those cages with a urine mineral deposit may be treated with a commercially available acidic detergent to soak and remove the scale prior to washing. Auto- matic watering systems are also fulshed at this time. Phase 2: Cage washing is used to disinfect the cage. This may be done with hot water, chemical disinfectants, or a combination of the two, provided the conditions for temperature and time will kill many the organisms on the caging. The recommended water temperature for washing cages is to oF.

Detergents, which can withstand high temperatures, must be specifically requested. It is important to note that water bottles, sipper tubes, feeders, and other accessories must be washed using the same conditions. Likewise, when automatic watering systems are used, the watering system should be dis- infected during the washing period. A hyperchlorinated flush is often used for this purpose, after the cage rack itself has been washed.

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Phase 3: Cage reassembly, takes place after the cage and accessories have been washed. Clean fresh bedding is placed into the solid-bottom cage, or in the litter pan below the wire- bottom cage, the lids and feeders where appropriate are placed on the cage, and the cages are ready to return to service. If phases 1 and 2 are performed correctly, the cages have been disinfected when they enter phase 3 of the cleaning cycle. Phase 4: Cage sterilization, is used in instances where patho- logic organisms are known to be present, in animals with strictly regulated microbiological flora, or when sterile supplies are required for entry into the animal room e.

An autoclave is used to sterilize caging. Hand cage cleaning may be used throughout all phases to disinfect cages. Usually hand cleaning involves scrubbing the cage with brushes, or using a high-pressure system to spray the caging with heated water water and detergent, followed by a water rinse or steam. Automated cage cleaning is a more reliable and consistent method for washing caging materials and accessories.

The cage rack washer see Figure 20 can be programmed to dispense the appropriate detergents and disinfectants during the wash cycle e. After washing the shelf rack of cages, the automatic watering system manifold should be flushed out with a chlorinated rack manifold flushing system see Figure 19 and Recoil hoses used in automatic watering systems must also be disinfected on a regular basis, usually every 14 days.

A chlorinated recoil hose flushing station similar to those used to flush the rack water manifold is very effective in disinfecting the recoil hose. A modern cage wash facility will often contain a automatic bottle washer left and tunnel rack washer right. The rack manifold flushing station is used to flush the automatic watering system with hyperchlorinated water after the rack exits from the tunnel washing machine. Animal room san- itation may be performed at several different intervals, depend- ing on the species of animal housed in the room, the population density and disease status of the animals within the room, the dress code for entering the room, the types of procedures per- mitted in the room and the traffic within the room.

A typical schedule may include daily sweeping, daily or weekly mopping or more often as necessary with a detergent disinfectant solution, and a scheduled room breakdown for thorough clean- ing and disinfection monthly or quarterly. The daily sweeping is designed to remove gross debris that have accumulated on the floor see Figure Mopping with a detergent disinfectant is intended to remove debris, which may become ground into.

Animal rooms should be cleaned daily. Personnel should wear protective apparel that will prevent exposure to the cleaning agents. A check-off log is useful to have on the door of each animal room. This log allows you to see at a glance if all pro- cedures within the room have been completed, as well as pro- viding documentation of what has occurred in the room.

It is good practice to autoclave mop heads after each use, otherwise the mop head can become the source to harbor micro- organisms from one day to the next. Room break down is designed to periodically disassemble the entire room, disinfect floors, walls and ceilings, and perform any repairs that may not be possible at other times. In order to keep track of sanitation procedures, it may be helpful to create a room checkoff sheet and post it outside each animal room. This form will serve as a reminder of the proce- dures to be followed, and document those that were performed on a daily basis see Figure Animal room and cage surfaces, water bottles, sipper tubes, and other accessories can be cultured and evaluated for micro- biological contamination.

Cultures of flat surfaces using RODAC plates see Figure 24 , and cultures of air samples, water sam- ples, and swabs of hard-to-reach places inside sipper tubes, corners of cages, ceiling and wall junctures within the room or on the cage may be used to identify the sanitation levels that are present before and after cleaning. These results will also assist in establishing sanitation frequency. Likewise, cage wash-.

A variety of sanitation supplies are used to sanitize the animal room. In addition, the room is often monitored with glue traps for the presence of vermin. Bacterial cultures may be taken of the room surfaces after sanitizing to ensure that standards are achieved. Heat-sensitive temperature strips are attached to cage surfaces as a quality assurance check of the washing proce- dures. The strip turns black bottom strip when the correct temperature is reached. Automated soap dispensers may be used to determine that the detergent disinfectant is being added to the wash cycle properly.

Temperature guarantees can be designed into the cage wash cycle, ensuring that the cagewasher will not advance through the cycle if a minimum temperature is not reached. Since there are no specific requirements for transportation of gerbils, those outlined for the hamster should be applied. Pre-Shipment Evaluation. All animals that are scheduled for shipment should be evaluated by a trained technician or veterinarian to ensure that they are in good health and will survive the shipping procedure without minimal risk to their well being.

The pre-shipment evaluation may also include com- pleting a health evaluation of the animal room, including screening sentinels for serologic or microbiologic evidence of diseases. Results of the most recent evaluation of the colony of animals should be provided to the recipient prior to shipping the animls. TABLE 7. Weaning to 5 weeks 5. Shipping Containers. The shipping container Figure 26 used to transport a live hamster or gerbil should be clean, and preferably sterile. The shipping container should be constructed in a manner that prevents escape, is free from protrusions or sharp edges that can injure the animal, and should withstand stacking during transportation.

If necessary, the inner surface should be covered with a fine wire mesh screen to prevent the animals from gnawing through or escaping. Ventilation openings and projections on the outside which create a space between stacked containers and allow for air flow should comply with the specific requirements outlined in the Animal Welfare Act Regulations. Filtered shipping containers are used to transport animals.

Processed or natural foods may be added to the container. Natural foods have an advantage over processed foods in that they provide animals with a source of both nutrition and water while they are in transit. Water may also be provided with water packs and through the use of gel packs. Gerbils in transport should be provided with a primary enclo- sure floor space recommended above for housing animals, including an interior height of 6 inches.

Food and Water. Depending on how long the animals are to be transported, the need for food and water may vary. Animals which are transported for a period greater than 6 hours must be provided with food and water. Vegetables are often given to animals to provide a single source for both nutrition and water. Standard rodent chow mixed with water, or shipping containers containing water dispensers or water gel packs are also commonly used. During surface transportation, hamsters must be observed at least every 4 hours to assure that they are receiving adequate ventilation, their ambient temperature is within the prescribed limits, and that they are not in any obvious distress.

Any finding that results in stress to the animal must be resolved. Shipping containers with observation windows built into them are useful for this purpose. When hamsters are air-shipped, they must be observed at least every four hours if the cargo space is accessible. Otherwise, they must be observed when they are loaded and unloaded. If several animals are transported in the same container they should be of the same species and com- patible. Compatible groups should be established prior to ship- ping the animals. This is particularly true for adult hamsters and gerbils, otherwise they will fight if they are not familiar with their cage mates.

The environment to which the animal is exposed during shipping must be maintained carefully. Space between boxes must be provided to allow for good ventilation when stacking of boxes occurs. Large fluctuations in tempera- ture, and temperature extremes must be avoided. Vendors should be asked to supply recently obtained information regarding the health status of their ham- ster and gerbil colonies prior to your purchase.

Upon receipt, the shipping containers should be disinfected use a detergent dis- infectant such as a quaternary ammonium a chlorine based liq- uid misted on the outer portions of the shipping container prior to unpacking the animals see Figure Extreme care must be used so that the animals do not come in contact with the disin- fectant. Once the box has been sprayed, and sufficient time has passed for agent to disinfect the container typically 10 to 15 minutes , the animals should then be assessed to assure that the animals meet the specification of the order e. Shipping containers should be disinfected at the time of receipt.

This will decrease the likelihood of exposing animals to unknown contaminants during unpacking. Identification of original supplier of the animal, order requisition number, breeding area of origin at the vendor, the birth date, sex and age of the animal, the protocol to which the animal is assigned, and the investigators name minimize the chance of an individual using an animal that was not assigned to them see Figure For hamsters, the easiest way to accomplish this level of identification is to create a cage card and appropriately label it with the above information. With respect to individual identification of animals within a cage, ear tags, implantable subcutaneous electronic micro- chips, and temporary identification numbers are often used.

Record keeping is an important factor in caring for animals.

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The cage card on the left contains important information on the source, age, sex, and delivery of the animals within the cage. The medical forms shown are used to document procedures and treatments that have occurred. Some forms and records used within the animal facility are described below. Health Records Any medical problem encountered with an animal should be reported in a timely manner to the veterinary staff.

Once reported, health records should be maintained on the animal or group of animals receiving medical treatment. The possibility of the medical problem being related to experimental treatments must always be considered, and any proposed treatment should be discussed with the investigator prior to proceeding.

Census Room census should be taken at specific intervals typically monthly in order manage the husbandry aspects of the animal facility. Animals may be identified with both temporary and permanent methods which may include clockwise ear tags bottom center , subcutaneous transponder implants they require one of the readers shown in the upper left , a cage card, and a permanent marker indelible ink. Work Records An animal room should be looked at as one would any other piece of equipment within the facility.

In order to know the condition and history of an animal room, complete records should be maintained on the room husbandry procedures that occur in the room. In order to keep track of room upkeep and sanitation procedures, it is helpful to create a room checkoff sheet and post it outside each animal room See Figure This form will serve as a reminder of the procedures to be followed, and document those that were performed on a daily basis e.

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It also provides an excellent his- torical record for events that occur within the animal room. High-quality hamsters and gerbils are available from commercial breeders see Chapter 6 , or they can be bred without much difficulty. TABLE 8. Hamsters Sexing of hamsters is relatively easy Figures 30 and The ano-genital distance is posterior due to protrusion of the testes into the scrotal sac. The female posterior is not as rounded, and the genital papillae is more prominent than in the male. Sexing hamsters may be done from above by observing the contour of the hind quarters. The male M has a rounded posterior which is created by the scrotal sac S.

In hand breed- ing systems, where the male is only placed with a poten- tially receptive female long enough to mate, an unreceptive female will attack and possibly kill a newly introduced male. Harem systems of 1M:4F may be used for production colonies. They attract males through scent marking the day before they are receptive. A female will exhibit lordosis when receptive to breeding. When sexing hamsters from the ventral aspect, note that the distance between the anus a and genital papilla u is up to 2 times greater in the male M than the female F , and the genital papilla is more prominent in the female than male.

Also, note that the female has a vaginal opening v. Breeding will occur repeatedly for up to 30 minutes, usually within 1 hour into the dark cycle. On day 2, the postovu- latory discharge is copious, viscous, thick creamy white with a distinct pungent odor. On day 3 the discharge is waxy, and on day 4 it is usually a translucent mucous discharge. Females are usually receptive to breeding 3 days after the postovulatory discharge.

As with the hamster, the ano-genital distance is pronounced genital papilla where the urethra exits. In addition, the male has very dark scrotal sacs. The pairing is usually established after weaning but before puberty, at approximately 6 to 7 weeks of age. The optimal hour light:dark cycle for succesful breeding is , respectively. When this sys- tem is used, non-parturient females may cannibalize the young. Ovulation occurs spontaneously and the female is sex- ually receptive for approximately 12 to 15 hours. They will build a nest with cotton fiber nesting material available from bedding vendors.

In addition to those noted below, specific regulatory agencies and their requirements may vary with the locale. The United States Department of Agriculture USDA The Animal Welfare Act contains provisions28 to prevent the sale or use of animals that have been stolen; prohibit animal fighting ventures; and ensure that animals used in research, for exhibition, or as pets receive humane care and treatment.

The law provides for regulating the transport, purchase, sale, housing, care, handling, and treatment of such animals. It also stipulated that the U. Department of Agricul- ture USDA must inspect each research facility, and that each facility must provide reports that verify compliance with the new regulations, provide proof that personnel involved with animal. More frequent inspec- tions are not uncommon. The report is due by December 1. The Policy is administered through the Office for Protection from Research Risks, which requires that an assurance be on file and approved.

Institutions must comply with this policy if they are awarded a federal grant or contract to conduct research involving the use of vertebrate animals. The recommendations in the Guide cover physical construction of animal facilities, hus- bandry, veterinary care, sanitation and the qualifications of personnel along with other aspects of animal care. GLP regulations were enacted in to assure the outstand- ing quality and integrity of animal safety data in non-clinical laboratory studies that support or are intended to support appli- cations for research or marketing permits.

This includes studies for products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, including food and color additives, animal food additives, human and animal drugs, medical devices for human use, biological products, and electronic products. GLP regulations encompass: 1 organization and personnel; 2 facilities and equipment; 3 facilities operation including animal care ; 4 test and control articles; 5 protocols for and conduct of a non-clinical laboratory study; and 6 records and reports.

In general, standard operating procedures must be outlined and rigorously followed and supported with detailed records. Annual reports on program changes are required. AAALAC accreditation is one of the highest standards achievable for documenting excellence in animal care and use. Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee IACUC The basis for achieving a high-quality, comprehensive pro- gram for animal care and use most often comes about through the close interaction of the IACUC with the department respon- sible for carrying out the program, and the individuals governed by the program.

Clergy or lawyers often fill this role. A lawyer or a mem- ber of the Public Policy and Affairs department often fills this position. Protocols must be approved prior to the use of the animals. This review will include an inspection of all of the research facilities, animal facilities, including ani- mal study areas.

The reports must distinguish significant deficiencies from minor deficiencies. A signif- icant deficiency is one that in the judgment of the IACUC and the Institutional Official is or may be a threat to the health or safety of the animals. These reports must include minority views filed by members of the committee. This section reviews selected known or potential zoonotic agents that have been documented in some individuals who worked with hamsters and gerbils.

In no way does this chapter include all infections or diseases that are zoonotic. The selection included has been made from those that are of principal interest, for various reasons, in public health. The number of listed zoonoses increases with our expansion of biomedical knowledge, improved diagnostic competency, and improved health services.

This section of the chapter simply serves an introduction to the topic of zoonotic diseases. Hamsters and gerbils purchased from reputable vendors present a very low risk with respect to zoonotic diseases. Nev- ertheless, individuals who are exposed to laboratory animals must understand that however low the potential, precautions must be taken to prevent exposure, and provisions must be available to treat an individual upon exposure.

Following good principles for hygiene such as wearing respiratory protection to minimize exposure to allergens, gloves when handling animals, a lab coat in the animal facility and washing your hands after working with animals are important preventative measures see Figure In addition to the above, an occupational safety and health program should take into consideration the following possible health hazards to those individuals working with hamsters and gerbils.

Bacteria Leptospirosis is caused by the bacteria Leptospira spp. Although the common reservoir for this organism includes ger- bils and hamsters, this disease is very unlikely to be present in purpose-bred animals. Personal protective supplies commonly available in an animal facility include a lab coat, face mask, gloves, hand towels, and cleaning agents. Safety glasses not shown are also com- monly used.

Individuals may experience a sudden onset of fever and headache, leukocytosis, chills, encephalitis, retroorbital pain, conjunctival suffusion, jaundice and hemorrhage. Since this is an organism primarily of wild rodents, prevention and control include wearing protective clothing, controlling the entry of wild rodents into the animal facility, use of purpose-bred animals, and vaccination of animals where appropriate.

Laboratory Animal Pocket Reference

Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium have been reported to cause enteritis in gerbils. Because people may contract Salmonella from gerbils, the animal colony should be screened and free of this organism. Personnel should wear per- sonal protective clothing and follow good hygiene when working with gerbils.

Although allergies are not a zoonotic disease, aller- gies in personnel exposed to rodents are not uncommon. Personnel with allergies may experience symptoms such as rhinitis, sneezing, or redness, swelling and itching on their skin where they have been exposed to urinary proteins. In some cases, allergies to laboratory ani- mals may progress to asthma. Therefore, it is advised that personal protective clothing such as respiratory protection dust and mold mask, positive-pressure HEPA filtered-air-stream hel- met , gloves, and a clean launderable or disposable laboratory coat or coveralls be worn.

Individuals who are known to be sensitive should also have a periodic respiratory evaluation as part of their occupational safety and health program. Bite, puncture, and scratch wounds. Hamsters are known to bite if they are startled or irritated, and scratches may easily occur when handling hamsters and gerbils.

Puncture wounds can occur when handling caging or other supplies with sharp edges. Personal protective clothing as noted above should be worn to minimize these incidents. If you are bitten, scratched, or suffer from a puncture wound, the wound should be cleaned with soap and water and you should report the incident to your facilities health-services group. Parasites Hymenolepis nana and Hymenolepis diminuta, tapeworms occasionally found in hamsters, may also infect humans. In humans, there are often no apparent clinical signs. In heavily infected individuals, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea and central nervous signs of agitation may be seen.

In addition, controlling the entry of wild rodents into the animal facility will prevent exposure of research colonies. Personnel handling hamsters should be instructed to follow good hygiene. Giardia sp. Control measures include managing a good quality control pro- gram with vendors, screening their colonies to ensure that they are not carrying this protozoan. In humans, infec- tion is often subclinical, or it may present as bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and weight loss.

Viruses Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus is a viral infection that can originate from hamsters, but more commonly originates from mice and transplantable mouse tumors. Transmission to humans occurs by aerosol exposure, direct contact with infected excretions, skin or mucous mem- branes, inhaling dust contaminated with dried excreta, hamster bites, and possibly arthropods.

Preventing the entry of wild rodents into the animal facility will minimize the exposure of in-house hamster colonies to the virus. In addition, all bite wounds should be decontam- inated as noted above. When this occurs, standard operation procedures in the form of a safety action plan should be developed to ensure that the hazardous materials and contaminated animals are handled safely.

For any procedure, consult with a qualified veterinarian before performing a procedure you are not familiar with. A laboratory scale for weighing the animal. Disposable syringes ranging from 1 to 12 ml. Blood collection tubes with no additive for serum and EDTA for whole blood. Tubes requiring 0. Gauze sponges. Disinfectant povidone-iodine solution. Nail clippers. Culture swabs in transport media for bacterial isolation. Microhematocrit tubes. Rodent restrainers.

An infrared tympanic thermometer for measuring body temperature. A sterile pack containing gauze, cotton tip swabs, a scalpel blade-holder, sterile scalpel blades, sterile suture, tissue forceps, suture needle-holders, tissue staples and stapling device, tissue scissors, and suture scissors. A small nose cone or bell jar for delivering inhalation anesthetic agents.

A hot-water heating pad. Although the respiratory rate and character is normally assessed through direct observation of the animal, a pediatric stethoscope may also be used for this purpose. Additional sup- plies may also be used as the need arises. Since ham- sters and gerbils are often housed in pairs or groups, assess- ment of the cage mates should also be performed. The physical examination should be done systematically so that no area is overlooked.

All findings should be recorded in a medical record for either the individual or group of animals. The physical exam- ination should proceed as follows:. Often the first evidence that an animal may be ill is that it is isolated from its cage mates, has a hunched posture, a ruffled hair coat and is not showing normal exploratory behavior. A fecal sample can be submitted for detection of parasites or ova, and for bacterial culturing.

Since hamsters and gerbils generally weigh less than grams, minor changes in body weight can be a significant finding. Hydra- tion is most easily assessed in small animals by carefully monitoring changes in body weight, and assessing the elasticity of the skin. Failure of skin over the shoulder blades to return to its normal position after it is lifted may be a sign that the animal is dehydrated. Gently squeeze the thorax and slide your fingers caudally, allowing them to fall off the final rib and onto the abdomen.

Palpate both ventrally and caudally. Be careful not to squeeze too hard, otherwise you may bruise or injure an internal organ. With your fingers, feel for firm masses. Look for symmetry in anatomy and shape when palpating the animal. Clip over- grown teeth as they will prevent the animal from eating. When evaluating the oral cavity, carefully assess the mucous membranes for normal color. Mucous mem- branes should be pink. Normal body temper- ature for the hamster is 37 to In addition, a quarantine prohibits the investigator from accessing the animals to initiate studies, and it permits time for the animals to stabilize and acclimate to their new environment while recuperating from the effects of shipping.

In cases where the health status of the incoming animals is not well defined by the vendor, the quar- antine period may run 2 to 3 weeks. Hamsters and gerbils may not require a quarantine period if the data available from the vendor is recent and comprehensive to provide a defined health status, and the shipping procedures do not expose the animals to any infectious agents. This is usually the case when hamsters and gerbils are purchased from a vendor with a known high quality of animals.

Whatever the case, there is ample data to show that rodents need a minimum of 48 to 72 hours after shipping for physiological and nutritional stabilization before they are turned over to the investigator. Many clinical problems appear similar at first, and often times the diseases are uncovered during screen- ing while they are at the subclinical stage. If animals are pur- chased from a reputable vendor as pathogen-free animals, many of the diseases reviewed here may be avoided.

Occa- sional clinical reports of parasitic diseases mange or intestinal parasites are found in the literature. Bacterial Diseases of Hamsters Proliferative ileitis wet tail Wet tail is the most commonly recognized disease of hamsters. Wet tail occurs in 3 to 8-week-old hamsters, with a high mor- bidity and mortality rate. Clinical signs include diarrhea, leth- argy, anorexia, fetid watery feces staining the perineum, weight loss, and sudden death within 1 to 3 days of onset.

Recent findings indicate that an organism nearly indistinguishable from Lawsonia intracellularis, the causative agent of proliferative enteritis in swine, has been identified in hamsters. Other efforts should be directed at minimizing spread of the disease. Erythromycin and chloromycetin have also been reported to be effective.

A strict quarantine and hous- ing of animals in a filter top cage is recommended in controlling spread of the disease. Clinically, diarrhea in the form of yellow, watery feces is the most common finding, along with anorexia and dehydration. In some cases, animals may present with sudden death with few premonitory signs.

This is accomplished through isolation or euthanasia of affected ani- mals, and sanitation of the facility.


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  • Since C. Clinical signs include labored breathing, conjunctivitis, otitis interna, nasal exudate, and weight loss. Surgical drainage and antibiotic therapy have been used. In addition, separation of the aggressive animals may be required. Efforts are directed at prevention of entry of this organism into the facility, and eradication of positive animals.

    Viral Diseases of Hamsters Very few naturally occurring viral diseases outbreaks have been reported in hamsters. Infected hamsters usually have chronic subclinical viuria, however, the infection may present as a chronic wasting disease. Since LCM is a zoonotic disease that can cause meningitis in humans, it is important to prevent the entry of this virus into the animal colony. If detected, an eradication program should be instituted. When present, it may cause fatal pneumonia. Efforts should be directed at prevention of viral introduction into the colony, and eradication of positive animals.

    Although often carried subclini- cally, large numbers of organisms have been recovered from weanlings with diarrhea. This may be an incidental finding, but. The protozoan Giardia muris mesocricetus, found in a fecal sample from a hamster with diarrhea. Photo courtesy of Mr. David Pavlock, Bristol-Myers Squibb. Treatment is 0. If present, both organisms may spread to mice and rats.

    Since S. Use of an avermectin will usually eliminate the adult infestation in the. The pinworm Syphacia mesocriceti, from a fecal sam- ple taken from a hamster with diarrhea. Typical of this pinworm is a flat side to the egg. This egg, found in a fecal sample from a hamster, is typical in that it is harboring the tapeworm Hymenolepis sp. The environment must be thoroughly sanitized using chlorine-based agents to eliminate the eggs. Reinfestation with pinworms may occur due to the chemical resistant nature of the eggs. Continued monitoring in a previously positive colony is recommended.

    In contrast, H. Since this tapeworm may be transmitted to humans, positive animals should be considered biohazardous. Ectoparasitic Arthropods mange Demodex criceti or Demodex aurati cause demodex mange see Figure Demodex criceti is a mite that burrows into the epidermis, feeding on the cell contents. Infestation with this mite rarely presents as a clinical disease, but may cause dry scaly skin, scabby dermatitis, and alopecia anywhere on the body. Most infested animals are asymptomatic.

    When stressed, hair loss may occur over the back and hind quarters, but pruritus is not observed. Another infestation is itch mange, caused by Notedres sp. This presents as a papular dermatitis with pruritus on the ears, nose, genital areas, tail, and limbs. Finding this mite on a deep skin scraping of a hamster with dry scaly skin is diagnostic for demodectic mange caused by Demodex criceti or Demodex aurati.

    This occurs commonly in aging hamsters and those with chronic infections. Chronic weight loss and wasting in an adult animal is the most common clinical finding. Ani- mals that develop thrombi may be recognized by their lethargy, subcutaneous edema, increased respiratory rate, cyanosis and increased heart rate, followed by sud- den death within a week.

    The liver is the most commonly affected organ. Transmission occurs through contact with soiled bedding. Clinical signs include acute death, lethargy, rough hair coat, and possibly watery diarrhea. This disease should be controlled through sanitation and culling the affected animals from the colony. A positive animal colony must be quarantined, and all materials used in the primary enclosure autoclaved to kill the spores. Stanton, H. Mersmann, eds. Swine In Cardiovascular Research. Allen, Matthew J. The Laboratory Small Ruminants. DeNardo, D. Duellman, W.

    Biology of Amphibians. GB Limited Preview of version. Fowler, M. Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, PA. GB Limited Preview version. Rosskopf, W. Diseases of Cage and Aviary Birds. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, MD. Restraint and Handling of Wild and Domestic Animals. Iowa State University Press. Ames, IA. Fox, J. Biology and Diseases of the Ferret. Lea and Febiger. Frye, F.

    Johnson-Delaney, K. Exotic Companion Medicine Handbook for Veterinarians. Wingers Publishing. Kuehl-Kovarik, C. May, E. LAT Training Manual. American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. Public Health Service, U. Department of Health and Human Services. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Clinical Laboratory Animal Medicine. An Introduction. McPherson, C. In: Laboratory Animal Medicine. Academic Press, Orlando, FL The HR answer book: an indispensable guide for managers and human resources professionals. New York: American Management Association.

    The full book is Available at the Scientific Library. Management of laboratory animal care and use programs. Available at the Scientific Library Fox, M. Veterinary Genetics. Practical Animal Handling. B Edney. Available at the Scientific Library Harkness, J. Swindle, M. Swine as Models in Biomedical Research. Hecker, J. The Sheep as an Experimental Animal. LAT Additional Reading List: These publications should be consulted and used as sources of information and for continued education.

    Manual of Clinical Procedures in the Dog and Cat. McCurnin, D. Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians. Philadelphia, PA, Handbook of Laboratory Animal Science. Volume 1. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. Manipulating the mouse embryo: A laboratory manual.


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    Anatomy and Physiology of Farm Animals, 5th. Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia, Baker, H. Academic Press, Orlando, FL, Small, J. Viral and Mycoplasmal Infections of Laboratory Rodents. The Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents, 4th. Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Hrapkiewicz, K. Outteridge, P. Veterinary Immunology. Siegmund, O. The Merck Veterinary Manual, 7th Ed. Merck and Co. Hillyer, E. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA, Manning, P. Newcomer, C. The Biology of the Laboratory Rabbit, 2nd. Sanders, Philadelphia, PA, Pratt, P. Laboratory Procedures for Veterinary Technicians. Mosby, St.

    Louis, MO, Sharp, P. Laboratory Animal Anesthesia, 2nd Ed. Knecht, C. Fundamental Techniques in Veterinary Surgery, 3rd Ed. Short, C. Principles and Practice of Veterinary Anesthesia. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, MA, Waynforth, H. Crow, S. Cordova, TN. NIH Publication No. Managing the laboratory animal facility. Also Available at the Scientific Library. National Center for Research Resources. NIH Publication number Guide for the care and use of agricultural animals in agricultural research and teaching, 1st revised edition.

    Guide for the care and use of laboratory Animals. Washington: National Academy Press. Medical Waste. Standards for the tracking and management of medical waste [Internet, cited June 4, ]. Office for Protection from Research Risks. PHS policy on humane care and use of laboratory animals. Guidelines for the humane transportation of research animals.

    Occupational health and safety in the care and use of research animals. National Academy Press. Occupational health and safety in the care and use of nonhuman primates. Washington, D. Part Biology and diseases. In The Laboratory Rat, Vol. Orlando, FL: Academic Press. ICLAS manual for genetic monitoring of inbred mice. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. Standard methods for examination of water and wastewater, 21st edition. Nutrient requirements of nonhuman primates : 2nd revised edition.

    Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources. In Laboratory animal medicine and management [cited June 4, ]. Virus penetration of examination gloves. Biotechniques 9 2 Practical radiation shielding for biomedical research. Radiation Protection Management 7 3 National Institutes of Health. OSHA [Internet]. General, organic, and biological chemistry. Bloomfield M. Chemistry and the living organism. Molecular biology made simple and fun. Understanding immunology. Louis, MO: Mosby. Spontaneous and engineered mutant mice as models for experimental and comparative pathology: History, comparison and developmental technology.

    MMRC home page [cited 10 Jul ]. The Jackson Laboratory [Internet]. Pease S, Lois C. Mammalian and avian transgenesis: new approaches. New York, NY: Springer. Germfree and gnotobiotics animal models : Background and applications. Svendsen, Per. Gnotobiology, p. In Melby EC Jr.

    Handbook of laboratory animal science, vol. Germ-free and specific pathogen- free, p.