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ILAR J. 2011;52(2):196-204.

Anesthesia, analgesia, and euthanasia of invertebrates.

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Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, UK.


Invertebrate animals have long played an important role in biomedical research in such fields as genetics, physiology, and development. However, with few exceptions, scientists, veterinarians, and technicians have paid little attention to the anesthesia, analgesia, and euthanasia of these diverse creatures. Indeed, some standard research procedures are routinely performed without anesthesia. Yet various chemical agents are available for the immobilization or anesthesia of invertebrates, ranging from gases or volatile liquids that can be pumped into either an anesthetic chamber (for terrestrial species) or a container of water (aquatic species), to benzocaine and other substances for fish. Many invertebrates are not difficult to immobilize or anesthetize and the procedures recommended in this article appear to be safe; however, none should be considered totally risk-free. Analgesia of invertebrates is as yet a largely unexplored field; until scientific data are available, other measures can promote the well-being of these animals in the laboratory. For euthanasia, various methods (physical or chemical or a combination of both) have been recommended for different taxa of invertebrates, but most have not been properly studied under laboratory conditions and some can be problematic in the context of research procedures and tissue harvesting. Furthermore, relevant data are scattered, sometimes available only in languages other than English, and there is no international approach for seeking and collating such information. In this article I review various methods of anesthesia, analgesia, and euthanasia for terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, as well as areas requiring further research.

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