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Researchers develop a scale for rabbits, akin to the grimace scale used
for laboratory mice, to help assess pain during routine lab procedures.
By Elise Andrew | September 10, 2012
Researchers at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom and the
University of Guelph in Canada this week released the Rabbit Grimace
Scale--an attempt to quantify the pain felt by laboratory rabbits during
routine ear tattooing used to mark individuals. A previously released
grimace scale study on mice has been shown to be an effective way of
measuring the animals’ pain and discomfort, and has been quickly adopted by
researchers to access post-operative pain in laboratory rodents.
Before and after both sham and real ear tattooing, the researchers measured
behavioral changes--including whisker movement, narrowed eyes, and cheek and
nose bulging--on a scale of 0 to 2, with 0 being no discernible change and 2
being obvious discomfort. A combined score out of 8 indicates total pain.
When a rabbit was tattooed without anesthetic, the Rabbit Grimace Scale
averaged 4, but with the addition of a local anesthetic, the rabbits
averaged a score of less than 2. The researchers published their results
last week (September 7) in
"The only way you can alleviate pain is to be able to
identify it, and to understand how much pain an animal is in," Matthew Leach
of Newcastle University in the U.K., who helped develop this scale, told
"There is a broad interest in grimace scales" for all sorts of lab animals,
he added, noting that his team is currently developing a grimace scale for
rhesus macaque monkeys.