Taitt, K. T., Kendall, L. V. 2019. Physiologic stress of ear punch identification compared with restraint only in mice. JAALAS 58(4), 438-442.
Social housing of laboratory rodents is recommended whenever possible to encourage natural behavior and social dynamics. Several identification methods are used to distinguish rodents from one another. One of the most common means of identifying mice is ear punching. The effect of ear punching for identification or genotyping on the welfare of mice remains a concern, because this method negatively affects welfare in other species. To assess the influence of ear punching on the welfare of mice, we implanted telemetry units in 6 female Swiss-Webster mice and monitored heart rate, body temperature, and activity after various routine procedures. The physiologic and behavioral responses to restraint (by scruffing) only, restraint and ear punching, and routine handling for husbandry were evaluated. The mean heart rate of mice after receiving an ear punch was significantly higher than baseline values at 30 min after the procedure, and the mean body temperature was significantly increased over baseline for at least 1 h. The heart rate, body temperature, and activity levels of mice after scruffing only and routine handling did not differ from baseline values. The proportion of time mice spent head grooming, a potentially nocifensive behavior, was increased immediately after ear punching and began to decline by 60 min. We show that the physiologic stress of mice receiving an ear punch was greater than that from restraint (scruffing) alone, whereas behavioral indices of pain were unchanged, suggesting that ear punching causes a transient response in mice.