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Pedicure soothes lab mice with serious skin disease

Apodemus_sylvaticus_bosmuisLaboratory mice commonly suffer from a skin problem called ulcerative dermatitis – itchy lesions that spur the animals to repeatedly scratch themselves with their hind claws, to the point where they practically shred themselves to pieces.

It’s been a longstanding issue for veterinarians who have tried various topical ointments, with limited success, said Stanford’s Sean Adams, DVM, PhD, who has been studying the problem. The result is that many valuable animals have to be euthanized as a humane gesture to save them from untreatable pain and suffering.

This is a simple, cheap, effective means of treating ulcerative dermatitis, which represents the single most preventable reason for euthanasia.

Adams and his colleagues came up with a simple solution. They adapted a plastic tube, with cutouts for the animals’ feet, in which they could briefly immobilize the animals while they trimmed their sharp claws.

More than 93 percent of animals who were given pedicures were cured of their skin problems, he and Stanford colleagues report in a new study. Only 25.4 percent of mice given a topical anti-inflammatory were cured of the disease.

“This is a simple, cheap, effective means of treating ulcerative dermatitis, which represents the single most preventable reason for euthanasia,” said Adams, a third-year resident in laboratory animal medicine and first author of the study. “I think it’s a very surprising finding how simple this technique is.”

The technique is easy to administer, with Stanford vets able to clip the animals’ nails in a few minutes or less. It’s far less labor-intensive than administering daily topical ointments, he said.

It is not only a humane approach but is cost-saving for laboratories, especially those that use unusual strains, such as transgenic mice.

“I think we’ll start seeing more people in other labs pick up this technique because it’s very easy to do,” Adams said. “There is definitely interest in finding good techniques for the problem because this is an issue for every institution that employs mice.”

The study appears in today’s issue of PLOS One.

Previously: Research prize for helping make mice comfy – and improving science, Animal study hints at potential treatment for skin-picking disorder and My funny Valentine — or, how a tiny fish will change the world of aging research
Photo by Rasbak

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