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J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2012 Jan;51(1):10-7.

Oxytocin in the treatment of dystocia in mice.

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Animal Health Care Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Physicians and veterinarians often prescribe oxytocin to treat dystocia. However, oxytocin administration to pregnant women or animals is not without risk. In the venue of laboratory animal medicine, the use of oxytocin may present confounding variables to research. Although oxytocin has been studied extensively, many of its physiologic effects and interactions with other hormones remain unclear. Investigator concerns about adverse and confounding effects of oxytocin in their research mice prompted the current review of oxytocin and its use to treat murine dystocia. Well-controlled studies of oxytocin in dystocic mice have not been conducted. However, in humans and other animals, inconsistent and adverse effects are well-documented. Limited knowledge of the complex physiologic and molecular mechanisms of action of oxytocin and scant support for the efficacy of oxytocin in dystocic mice fail to meet the standards of evidence-based veterinary medical practice. The administration of oxytocin is contraindicated in many cases of dystocia in research mice, and its use in dystocic mice may be unfounded. A brief review of oxytocin and the physiologic mechanisms of parturition are provided to support this conclusion. Alternative treatments for murine dystocia are discussed, and a holistic approach is advocated to better serve animal welfare and to safeguard the integrity of valuable research. Laboratory animal veterinarians overseeing the development of guidelines or standard operating procedures for technician or investigator treatment of dystocic mice should understand the effects of oxytocin administration in light of relevant research.

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