Dunbar, M. L., David, E. M., Aline, M. R. et al. 2016. Validation of a behavioral ethogram for assessing postoperative pain in guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus). JAALAS 55(1), 29–34.

Although guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) have been used in research for more than a century and remain the most prevalent USDA-covered species, little has been elucidated regarding the recognition of clinical pain or analgesic efficacy in this species. We sought to assess pain in guinea pigs by using newer, clinically relevant methods that have been validated in other rodent species: the behavioral ethogram and cageside proxy indicator. In this study, 10 male guinea pigs underwent electronic von Frey testing of nociception, remote videorecording of behavior, and cageside assessment by using time-to-consumption (TTC) of a preferred treat test. These assessments were performed across 2 conditions (anesthesia only and castration surgery under anesthesia) at 3 time points (2, 8, and 24 h after the event). The anesthesia only condition served to control for the nonpainful but potentially distressing components of the surgical experience. Compared with those after anesthesia only conditions, subtle body movements were increased and nociceptive thresholds were decreased at 2 and 8 h after surgery. At 24 h, neither subtle body movement behaviors nor nociceptive thresholds differed between the 2 conditions. In contrast, TTC scores did not differ between the anesthesia only and surgery conditions at any time point, underscoring the challenge of identifying pain in this species through cageside evaluation. By comparing ethogram scores with measures of nociception, we validated select behaviors as pain-specific. Therefore, our novel ethogram allowed us to assess postoperative pain and may further serve as a platform for future analgesia efficacy studies in guinea pigs.

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