Domínguez-Oliva, A., Hernández-Ávalos, I., Olmos-Hernández, A. et al. 2023. Thermal response of laboratory rats (Rattus norvegicus) during the application of six methods of euthanasia assessed by infrared thermography. Animals 13(18), 2820.

Refinement is one of the principles aiming to promote welfare in research animals. The techniques used during an experimental protocol, including euthanasia selection, must prevent and minimize suffering. Although the current euthanasia methods applied to laboratory rodents are accepted, the controversial findings regarding the potential stress/distress they can cause is a field of research. The objective was to assess the thermal response of Wistar rats during various euthanasia methods using infrared thermography (IRT) to determine the method that prevents or diminishes the stress response and prolonged suffering. Pentobarbital (G1), CO2 (G2), decapitation (G3), isoflurane (G4), ketamine + xylazine (G5), and ketamine + CO2 (G6) were evaluated at five evaluation times with IRT to identify changes in the surface temperature of four anatomical regions: ocular (T°ocu), auricular (T°ear), interscapular (T°dor), and caudal (T°tai). Significant differences (p < 0.05) were found in G2 and G4, registering temperature increases from the administration of the drug to the cessation of respiratory rate and heart rate. Particularly, isoflurane showed a marked thermal response in T°ocu, T°ear, T°dor, and T°tai, suggesting that, in general, inhalant euthanasia methods induce stress in rats and that isoflurane might potentially cause distress, an effect that must be considered when deciding humane euthanasia methods in laboratory rodents.

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