Tuesday, May 20, 2014

National Geographic / Petsmart Betta Bowl Hall of Shame

Right in the product description they say: "National Geographic's mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. They believe that responsible Pet Parenting is a great way to experience some of the wonders of the world while developing a greater love and compassion for it."

Now I keep a betta in a five gallon tank, arguably he would like more space than that.  But even I find it very easy to see that a bowl that is only one gallon in holding capacity, and clearly considers aesthetic for the human much more important than comfort for the animal, is less than inspiring.

And if course this is an exclusive deal with PetSmart who state on their website that it is acceptable to keep a betta fish in 1 quart (0.25 of a gallon of water). That is, a 3.8 inch / 9.8cm cube.

My advice would be: if you are going to sell this thing show a photo with a full grown betta fish of the type PetSmart sells in it, to show the scale you are working on here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Housing Lab Rats in Pairs

ressaure / Foter
Individual housed rats animal are widely considered to experience a syndrome called ‘isolation stress’.[1][2]. This syndrome includes hyper-reactivity to stimuli,[3] deficits in learning performance,[4] and altered reactivity to pharmaceuticals.[5]

When compared to other rodent species, rats are particularly susceptible to isolation stress, especially as juveniles (up to 50 days of age).[6][7] While housing in larger groups is often desirable, pair housing is sufficient to abolish the worst effects of isolation stress. Use of social contact substitutes such as mirrors has not been successful.[1]

 Social housing permits the display of highly-motivated social behaviors and helps moderate the effect of experimental or incidental stressors. When confronted with a novel or aversive event, paired animals experience significantly less distress as indicated by measures such as open field activity,[1] ethanol intake[8] and adrenal gland size.[4]

 As such, differences in social housing should be considered as a potential source of experimental confounds. Social housing is preferred as producing rats that display less severe physical and behavioral abnormalities[9] and are less susceptible to stressors.

  •  [1] Wiberg, G. S., and H. C. Grice. "Long term isolation stress in rats." Science (New York, NY) 142 (1963): 507.
  •  [2] Baer, Hf. "Long-term isolation stress and its effects on drug response in rodents." Laboratory animal science 21.3 (1971): 341. 
  •  [3] Lapiz, M. D. S., et al. "Influence of postweaning social isolation in the rat on brain development, conditioned behavior, and neurotransmission." Neuroscience and behavioral physiology 33.1 (2003): 13-29. 
  • [4] Reed, Phil, et al. "Effects of isolation rearing and mirror exposure on social and asocial discrimination performance." Learning and Motivation 27.2 (1996): 113-129. 
  •  [5] Jones, G. H., et al. "Dopaminergic and serotonergic function following isolation rearing in rats: study of behavioural responses and postmortem and in vivo neurochemistry." Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 43.1 (1992): 17-35. 
  •  [6] Einon, Dorothy F., et al. "Isolation has permanent effects upon the behavior of the rat, but not the mouse, gerbil, or guinea pig." Developmental psychobiology 14.4 (1981): 343-355. 
  • [7] Lukkes, Jodi L., et al. "Adult rats exposed to early-life social isolation exhibit increased anxiety and conditioned fear behavior, and altered hormonal stress responses." Hormones and behavior 55.1 (2009): 248-256.
  • [8] Parker, Lorne F., and Barbara L. Radow. "Isolation stress and volitional ethanol consumption in the rat." Physiology & behavior 12.1 (1974): 1-3. 
  •  [9] Muchimapura, S., et al. "Isolation rearing in the rat disrupts the hippocampal response to stress." Neuroscience 112.3 (2002): 697-705.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


My short response to this post about how people should not take their dogs out into the world is this: dogs are no more or less disgusting than people.  Arguably rather less so.

I would rather not have to share my public transport, restaurant area etc with children in particular and people in general.  The difference is that I realize that my feelings in this regard are irrational.

My more considered attitude to dogs, children, and people in general is that if they don't smell and are well-behaved then what they are doing in my proximity is honestly none of my business. An attitude I expect to be reciprocal.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Of Rats and Women, follow up

Of Rats and Women
 "I received my PhD for studies into the how rat caging affects the rats' welfare. Every single rat used in my four and a half year course of study was female."

N.I.H. Tells Researchers to End Sex Bias in Early Studies
"...N.I.H. wants scientists that it funds to include female lab animals and female cell lines." 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Using Insects to Collect Blood Samples

Collecting blood samples is an important part of many research projects and clinical testing to keep animals healthy. It is also very stressful.  Not just the blood draw but the handling and restraint associated with it.

One of the more interesting approaches to making this procedure less stressful is to use another animals that has evolved to steal other animals blood without them even noticing --blood-sucking insects.Two different researchers have used Dipetalogaster maximus (common name: "the kissing bug:) to collect blood from rabbits and found the  blood collected equivalent in quality to a traditional blood draw with a hypodermic.

This technique is also promising for use with wild and captive exotic animals who are even more easily stressed than animals kept in a laboratory.It might seem like a complicated way of going about something that can be done more easily by using physical restraint, but I think this is the kind of innovation that will ultimately lead to animals living complete, enjoyable lives in the laboratory without the kinds of routine stress many currently experience.

  • Markvardsen, S. N., Kjelgaard-Hansen, M., Ritz, C., & Sørensen, D. B. (2012). Less invasive blood sampling in the animal laboratory: clinical chemistry and haematology of blood obtained by the Triatominae bug Dipetalogaster maximus. Laboratory animals, 46(2), 136-141. 
  • Voigt, C. C., Faßbender, M., Dehnhard, M., Wibbelt, G., Jewgenow, K., Hofer, H., & Schaub, G. A. (2004). Validation of a minimally invasive blood-sampling technique for the analysis of hormones in domestic rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus(Lagomorpha). General and comparative endocrinology, 135(1), 100-107.

National Pet Week

This is National Pet Week!  Which I shall take as an excuse to post pictures of Vera and Avon. As if I need an excuse....