Pain management details – full reporting for better science and better welfare

I’ve blogged on this before a few years back, here and here. I have published a literature review with Jamie Austin on the topic, and I’m concerned that scientists do not describe how they manage pain in their laboratory animals. In a world of on-line publishing without page limits, many journals allow thorough Methods descriptions in which scientists can hit more of the guidance in the ARRIVE guidelines for publishing animal experiments. For projects that include surgery on animals, that means describing all use (doses, frequency, duration of treatments) of anesthetics and analgesics, methods of pain evaluation, and an important poiint that none of some 800 papers I reviewed included: a clear statement that pain medicines were withheld (and why).

When scientists DO include pain management information they accomplish several good things:

They allow other scientists more information for a critical reading of the reported findings

They allow all readers the evidence that they used animals as humanely as possible

They model better animal treatment for others building on their work

When scientists do NOT include this information, they leave other scientists to think that pain medicines are optional, or worse yet, inappropriate for a particular set of experiments. Even in 2019, too many scientists in my opinion resist full use of analgesic pain medicines for their animals, and too many do that because they think others in their field will actually fault their work for using painkillers — patience: I will write about that, but it’s in some of my published writing here and here.

Published by larrycarbone

Larry Carbone is a veterinarian with 40 years of experience caring for animals in laboratories. In addition to his veterinary degree, he holds a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, and specialty certifications in Animal Welfare (ACAW) and in Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM). Carbone left the University of California San Francisco in 2019, and is now a freelance animal welfare scholar, consultant, speaker, and trainer in laboratory animal welfare. Carbone writes about public policy, ethics, and laboratory animal welfare. His 2004 book, What Animals Want: Expertise and Advocacy in Laboratory Animal Welfare [Oxford University Press] tells the story the United States Animal Welfare Act. Once Congress decided to update that law and regulate how scientists use animals in their experiments, everyone wanted to tell them what changes would really matter to the animals themselves. How could medical researchers, animal protectionists, veterinarians and citizens disagree so much on how big a cage a guinea pig harem should have, how to evaluate and treat pain in a lab mouse, what makes for a psychologically enriched monkey, or how much exercise dogs need, settle for, or yearn for in their caged lives? What Animals Want is available in print or kindle. With one foot in the humanities and one in veterinary science, Carbone is uniquely poised to examine the policy and ethical ramifications of emerging information animal welfare science. Humans use and impact captive, domestic and wild animals in so many ways, and we must understand how our actions matter to the animals as perceived by the animals. Much of his recent work has focused on pain management: Animals cannot run to the medicine chest for an aspirin, so people must have the best tools for recognizing pain, preventing pain, treating pain, assessing whether the treatments are effective, and deciding when animals will be left with untreated pain in the pursuit of medical research. When not working on animal issues, Larry Carbone is a potter in San Francisco, a member of Ruby’s Clay Studio. His work is mostly functional wheel-thrown stoneware and porcelain, with occasional flights to the dysfunctional. Carbone is a traveler, especially to places where he can see and photograph animals. He travels with his husband, David Takacs, professor of environmental law at UC Hastings College of the Law.

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