Anesthesia and Analgesia in Research Animals

Federal guidelines, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Public Health Service Research Extension Act and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (The Guide), require that procedures involving animals be conducted in a manner that avoids or minimizes discomfort, pain or distress. The Guide states:

The proper use of anesthetics, analgesics, and tranquilizers in research animals is an ethical and scientific imperative.   The selection of the most appropriate analgesic or anesthetic should reflect professional judgment as to which best meet clinical and humane requirements without compromising the scientific aspects of the research protocol”.

If a painful procedure must be conducted without the use of an anesthetic, analgesic, or tranquilizer – because such use would defeat the purpose of an experiment – the procedure must be approved by the committee [IACUC] and supervised directly by the responsible investigator. Muscle relaxants or paralytic drugs (e.g., succinylcholine or other curariform drugs) are not anesthetics. They must not be used alone for surgical restraint, although they can be used in conjunction with drugs known to produce adequate analgesia.

The following sections provide detailed information regarding the IACUC recommendations for the use of analgesics and anesthetics as well recommendations for acceptable agents and dose ranges.

  1. Overview
  2. Species-specific considerations
  3. Commonly used anesthetics and analgesics
  4. Species-specific anesthesia-analgesia formularies:
BU IACUC Approved October 2008