Management of Laboratory Animal Production and Maintenance Colonies


  • A veterinarian responsible for the management of laboratory animals uses the strong scientific knowledge provided by a veterinary degree but must acquire a number of special skills and a variety of experience in order to fulfil the duties involved in this role. Although well equipped in the general principles of preventative and clinical medicine, surgery, genetics, the scientific process, the principles of animal management, pathology, quarantine, and nutrition, the laboratory animal veterinarian needs to apply this knowledge to a range of less familiar species. The focus of undergraduate training is on the domestic and farm animal species with little attention given to mice, rats, guinea pigs, and rabbits, let alone fish, amphibia, native animals and reptiles. The laboratory animal veterinarian therefore embarks early on a steep learning curve concerning anatomy, physiology and medicine of rodents, rabbits and other unusual species. The latter includes diagnosis and treatment of diseases one has not encountered before. In some situations, more familiar species, in which he or she has received considerable training, may be encountered, but the circumstances of their housing may be vastly different in the research environment. Many additional responsibilities such as personnel management of a team of animal technicians, financial management and environmental control are part of the role of these veterinarians. It is apparent that, in addition to the experience and training of a veterinarian, it is necessary to acquire some of the skills of the production engineer and human resources manager.
  • The ultimate aim of the laboratory animal veterinarian is to provide to the researcher, in a timely and efficient manner, an experimental animal in a state appropriate to the intended research in terms of biological characteristics, genetic constitution and microbiological and general health status. In recent years genetic definition, by targeting specific genes, particularly in laboratory mice, has allowed investigators to more accurately define the biological roles of genes and the genetic components of disease processes. As the effects of genetic manipulation cannot be fully known in advance, this has placed more demands on veterinarians involved with the production and monitoring of these animals.
  • Monitoring aspects will be discussed in the next section, but from a production viewpoint these animals may require special care, they may be more susceptible to disease and reproductive efficiency may be impaired. The veterinarian with experimental surgery commitments performs surgery to assist investigators in their research and this may extend to development of surgical techniques for specific protocols as well as training and providing advice in surgical techniques to investigators and animal technicians in some procedures. It may be seen that the laboratory animal veterinarian, as defined here, is something of a jack of all trades. Indeed they are masters of most of the component disciplines. It might be seen to be a section of the profession that has many challenges. Laboratory animal veterinarians will tell you that this is indeed true!
Last modified: Monday, 4 June 2012, 8:59 AM