Use of Sedatives, Analgesics, and Anesthetics in Animals Used in Research and Teaching




It is difficult to assess pain and distress in animals, so procedures that cause pain or distress in humans should be assumed to cause similar effects in animals. Sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia should be administered if animals may experience more than momentary or slight pain or distress unless there is scientific justification for not doing so. The attending veterinarian is responsible for ensuring that adequate sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia is provided.



When animals may experience more than momentary or slight pain or distress, the animal care and use protocol must include a detailed description of how this will be assessed and alleviated. Investigators must ensure research personnel are adequately trained to assess pain and distress in the species being utilized. When animals are subjected to major surgery, routine provision of postsurgical analgesia is required. The investigator must provide the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) with a scientific justification for withholding sedatives, analgesics, or anesthetics or for any deviations from the recommendations of the veterinary staff. The justification should include evidence that the agents would compromise the scientific aspects of the research protocol. Investigators are strongly encouraged to consult with the veterinary staff during the protocol planning period about the use of drugs for controlling pain and distress.

Animal Care Program (ACP) and Clinical Veterinary Staff

The veterinary staff must approve the proposed methods and use of agents to prevent or alleviate pain or distress in experimental animals. The ACP veterinary staff review animal care and use protocols and consult with investigators to arrive at appropriate methods of treatment that meet the clinical needs of the animals and do not compromise the scientific integrity of the experiments.

In the event of unanticipated pain or distress that is protocol-associated or arises from spontaneous illness or injury, the ACP veterinary staff must be notified immediately. The respective ACP veterinarian is responsible for determining the cause of pain and instituting appropriate ameliorative therapy. ACP veterinarians are authorized to make independent emergency decisions concerning the treatment regimen of animals experiencing unalleviated pain or suffering. This authority is delegated to ACP veterinarians attending to animals under the auspices of IACUC. Such animals must be provided appropriate veterinary care or be humanely euthanized unless this is in direct conflict with experiment goals described in an IACUC-approved protocol. Whenever possible, the investigator is consulted prior to initiating treatment or euthanasia, but the primary consideration is always the animal’s welfare.

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee

IACUC has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that pain and distress in research animals are limited to that which is necessary for the course of approved experimentation. This includes review and approval of methods and agents to prevent and alleviate pain and distress, and the PIs demonstrated effort to find alternatives to potentially painful procedures, even when the intention is to alleviate such pain. Committee decisions will be based on regulatory requirements as well as advice from the veterinary staff and the investigators. At least every three years, the IACUC will review protocols that involve pain or distress to assess methods and agents being used and deviations (if any) from this policy.


Related Standards

Approved Date

Revised Date