Evaluation of the aesthetics of physical methods of euthanasia of anesthetized rats

Debra L. Hickman, Steven W. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Dissection of living brain tissue for in vitro experiments requires the use of a rapid euthanasia method. However, the method must not subject animals to unnecessary pain and must be aesthetically acceptable to experimenters. The purposes of the current study were to assess the aesthetics of 6 euthanasia methods, measure the procedure duration, and evaluate brain for pathology after each procedure. We digitally recorded euthanasia of isoflurane-anesthetized rats by 6 physical methods: anesthetic overdose, cardiac exsanguination, decapitation, closed intrathoracic transection of the great vessels and heart, thoracic percussion, and thoracotomy with rupture of great vessels. Volunteer researchers and animal caretakers watched the video and completed an associated questionnaire. Anesthetic overdose and cardiac exsanguinations were rated most aesthetically pleasing, although these procedures took the longest to complete. In contrast, decapitation and thoracic percussion were the least aesthetically pleasing, but these methods were the quickest. No demographic factor was identified that could predict whether a given euthanasia procedure would be favored for aesthetic reasons, and participants provided a wide variety of rationales for the aesthetic ratings they assigned. Although all of these euthanasia methods meet the criteria of approved methods of euthanasia of anesthetized rats as defined by the AVMA, aesthetic features and the scientific need for rapid euthanasia are both considerations in selecting a method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-701
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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