Health monitoring of laboratory animals

Healthy animals are an essential prerequisite for scientifically sound research as well as animal welfare. Annex III (Requirements for establishments and for the care and accommodation of animals) of the EU Directive 2010/63 states (in section 3.1):

(a) Establishments shall have a strategy in place to ensure that a health status of the animals is maintained that safeguards animal welfare and meets scientific requirements. This strategy shall include regular health monitoring, a microbiological surveillance programme and plans for dealing with health breakdowns and shall define health parameters and procedures for the introduction of new animals.

(b)  Animals shall be checked at least daily by a competent person. These checks shall ensure that all sick or injured animals are identified and appropriate action is taken.

Animal research facilities in Norway are required to have an annual plan for health monitoring that includes a check for zoonoses.  This requirement is part of the Norwegian Regulation known as Forskrift om dyrehelsemessige vilkår for godkjenning av institusjoner, institutter og sentra og overføring av dyr, sæd, egg og embryoer til og fra godkjente anlegg, whose main aim is to prevent the spread of infectious disease.

FELASA has issued a series of guidelines and recommendations on health monitoring of individuals and colonies.

See also the section on health monitoring under the PREPARE guidelines.

The North American 3Rs Collaborative has made a resource page on rodent health monitoring.

In addition to monitoring animal health, it is vital to evaluate potential health risks to the personnel working with animal experiments. Resources related to these health risks are cited in the section on experimental design and reporting.

Other references

A Guide to Modern Strategies for Infection Surveillance of Rodent Populations: Beyond Sentinels (Charles River guidebook)
Handbook of Clinical Signs in Rodents and Rabbits (Charles River guidebook)

This page was updated on 05 July 2023

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