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Guidance Regarding Food or Water Restriction

Overview and Definitions

Some research projects require the regulation of food and/or water to achieve the desired experimental results; these procedures may be approved by the IACUC, provided they are carefully described and scientifically justified in the approved protocol. 

Food/water restriction may entail either scheduled access to food and water, so animals can eat/drink as much as they want at regular (but time-limited) intervals; or restricted access, in which the total volume of food or fluid is strictly monitored and controlled. 1

At least minimal quantities of food and fluid must be available to provide for development of young animals and to maintain long-term well-being of all animals.  Experimental procedures utilizing food or water restriction must include a program for daily monitoring of physiologic and behavioral indexes, including criteria (such as weight loss or state of hydration) for temporary or permanent removal of an animal from the experimental protocol.


Precautions and Guidelines: 

  • All variations to the standard provisions of ad-libitum food and water must be described in the protocol and scientifically justified. 
  • The protocol must include definite physical criteria for temporary or permanent removal of an animal from the study (e.g., maximum allowable weight loss, clinical signs of dehydration).
  • The least restriction that will achieve the scientific objective should be used.
  • If food/water restriction is intended as a motivational tool for conditioned-response research, the use of a highly preferred food (e.g. sweetened cereal) or fluid (sugar water) is recommended. 
  • Animals undergoing food or water restrictions must be weighed at least once per week2 (more often for small animals such as rodents).  NOTE:  Food consumption may decrease with fluid restriction.3


Documentation Requirements

  • A daily log sheet must be maintained and kept with the animals (i.e., in the housing room, on or near the cage rack) at all times, and must contain the following information (at minimum):
  • Record of food/water schedule – animals must be monitored by the laboratory staff daily while on food/water restriction (including holidays and weekends).
  • Health status of the animals
  • Body weight measurements
  • Any adverse effects that may occur.

NOTE:  If ULAR husbandry personnel cannot find the log sheet and cannot otherwise determine when animals last received food or water, they are authorized to feed/water the animals as needed without regard to the research procedures that necessitated the restriction. 

See a Sample log template


References

  • 1Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals – 8th Edition (National Research Council, 2011)
  • 2 NIH (National Institutes of Health). Guidelines for Diet Control in Behavioral Study. Bethesda, MD, Animal Research Advisory Committee, NIH.
  • 3 NYAS (New York Academy of Sciences). 1988. Interdisciplinary Principles and Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Education. New York, New York Academy of Sciences.

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