Pinelli, C., Leri, F., Turner, P. 2017. Long term physiologic and behavioural effects of housing density and environmental resource provision for adult male and female Sprague Dawley rats. Animals 7(6), 44.
There is considerable interest in refining laboratory rodent environments to promote animal well-being, as well as research reproducibility. Few studies have evaluated the long term impact of enhancing rodent environments with resources and additional cagemates. To that end, male and female Sprague Dawley (SD) rats were housed singly (n = 8/sex), in pairs (n = 16/sex), or in groups of four (n = 16/sex) for five months. Single and paired rats were housed in standard cages with a nylon chew toy, while group-housed rats were kept in double-wide cages with two PVC shelters and a nylon chew toy and were provided with food enrichment three times weekly. Animal behaviour, tests of anxiety (open field, elevated plus maze, and thermal nociception), and aspects of animal physiology (fecal corticoid levels, body weight, weekly food consumption, organ weights, and cerebral stress signaling peptide and receptor mRNA levels) were measured. Significant differences were noted, primarily in behavioural data, with sustained positive social interactions and engagement with environmental resources noted throughout the study. These results suggest that modest enhancements in the environment of both male and female SD rats may be beneficial to their well-being, while introducing minimal variation in other aspects of behavioural or physiologic responses.