Tuesday, February 9, 2010
As noted in our recent article on the veterinarians’ visit to Animal Care, we were given some recommendations on how to break a virus cycle that may be causing health issues in our naked mole-rat colony.
While doing the super-clean process for the naked mole-rats, Animal Care staff observed an extremely distressing behavior. Individuals in the colony were itching frantically. Some of the mole rats would pause as they passed certain points in the enclosure, scratch their sides with their hind feet, and move on.
Others were even more profoundly affected. One or two animals seemed to itch everywhere and were nearly immobilized in their efforts to relieve their discomfort.
Now while it is not uncommon for mole-rats to show some self-grooming behavior during cage cleaning, these activities usually subside within ten minutes of chamber cleaning. But in this case, some animals showed no signs of settling down.
Because we were using a new, more aggressive disinfectant, our first thought was that some residue had not been rinsed off. The chambers were removed, cleaned with a mild, non-irritating detergent, rinsed and quickly replaced. All of this was done with an eye on getting the animals comfortable as quickly as possible. It worked – immediately as new chambers were put in, the scratching stopped.
All of the tubes and chambers for the following day’s change-out were subjected to the same double cleaning process; no residual disinfectant could possibly remain. Yet once again, the itching began.
Something else must be going on – but what? A clue came while cleaning up a dirty chamber. Minute particles of bedding stuck to the Plexiglas walls. The process of cleaning and towel drying the chambers had created static electricity, which was irritating the mole-rats! When the chambers were replaced the day before, they were still damp from cleaning, and therefore non-irritating!
Problem solved! We no longer towel dry our chambers. We let them air dry. Furthermore, we lightly dampen them before use to eliminate any static that might remain. The mole-rats are happier, and we can rest assured that our efforts to help them don’t create a new set of problems.