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Veterinary Care and Services 

Preventative Medicine Programs

Preventative medicine is one of the most important aspect of RAR's veterinary service program. When diseases are introduced into a concentrated housing area they can quickly spread causing morbidity and having disastrous effects on research programs. Exclusion of disease has proven time and again to be the most efficient method of ensuring a healthy animal. Once a disease has been established it can be difficult to eradicate. Treatments are often costly and aren't always effective. They may present as significant of a research variable as does the disease itself.

Cooperation with RAR's preventative medicine programs is essential and scrupulous attention must be given to procedures such as room entry requirements, traffic flow, and animal and waste handling requirements.


Vendor Evaluation and Screening

RAR veterinarians establish health specifications for all animals purchased by the University of Minnesota. These requirements are negotiated into contracts or for individual animal purchases. Certain vendors provide health screening reports from their facility. RAR veterinarians may inspect certain vendor's operations. Incoming animals may be tested or necropsied to screen against diseases that are being excluded from the facility.

Incoming Animal Evaluation

Large Animals

All large animals and rabbits are examined on arrival at RAR by a member of the veterinary staff. The examination includes a health evaluation and a behavioral assessment. The order specifications are verified and the investigator and area veterinarian are contacted if any problems are found. Animals will also receive the treatments described below.  A special service fee will be assessed for these and any additional procedures requested by investigators.
  • Farm animals typically receive an injection of a broad-spectrum antibiotic to control upper respiratory infections that commonly occur after shipping. They are also vaccinated and receive anti-parasitic treatment as described below.
  • Dogs and cats are vaccinated and receive anti-parasitic treatment as described below.
  • Non-human primates are tested for a variety of diseases and zoonoses, and receive anti-parasitic treatment as described below.
Large animals may not be used for experimental procedures until 72 hours after entry into the facility and a one week acclimation period is recommended.  This stabilization period is not required for animals used acutely (anesthetized and euthanized at the end of the procedure) although it is recommended. This provision is to allow the animal to acclimate to the facility and reduce the chance of stress-induced disease, including anesthetic death.

Rodents and Non-Mammals

"Approved vendors" provide RAR with regular animal health monitoring reports from their facilities. Before animals from other sources (including other institutions) can be approved for shipping to RAR, the supplier must provide certain health reports. These requirements can be determined by consulting with an RAR veterinarian. 

All animals received by RAR are visually examined by the laboratory animal care staff when they are placed into housing. The order specifications are verified and the investigator and area veterinarian are contacted if any problems are found. 


There is no specific acclimation requirement for rodents and rabbits.

A one week acclimation period is recommended for all animals to prevent stress-induced disease.


If animals do not meet the health requirements required by RAR, investigators are given various options so they can receive their animals. Some vendors may provide the required testing or treatments. Typically the cost of this will be added to the purchase price of the animals. If space is available and the ability to test for or treat a disease of concern is available, RAR may arrange for quarantine in its facilities. Quarantine conditions and costs are normally arranged through the area veterinarian. For detailed rodent quarantine procedures click here.

Rodents coming from colonies with ecto- or edo-parasites will be quarantined.

Random source dogs and cats will be quarantined. They may be used acutely.

Non-human primates from most sources are quarantined for a minimum of 6 weeks.

Animals in quarantine are not available for experimental use.

Specific Pathogen-Free Housing

There are a number of infectious diseases in rodents and rabbits that are often subclinical. These diseases may become clinical secondary to experimental stressors, or the organisms may have specific effects on certain cell types and consequently affect research results. Because of this, animals have been developed that are free of these viruses and are called specific pathogen-free (SPF). Most commercially available rodents are SPF. Other animals may be available SPF. The definition of SPF is not standardized. Each institution must define its own set of "specific pathogens" to exclude.

Maintaining SPF animals requires specialized housing and handling procedures. The organisms are extremely contagious and any break in handling and housing procedures may result in a disease outbreak. 


  • Investigators using SPF rodents must receive special training in handling procedures. 
    • Microisolator cages must only be opened in a laminar flow hood and should be handled like a sterile petri dish. The outside is dirty, the inside sterile, and never the twain shall meet.  Download a handout on Microisolator Technique HERE
    • If the barrier is broken (cage left open, animal escapes and contacts the floor, improper microisolator procedure, etc.) within an animal  room, the investigator should place a note on the cage indicating how the break occurred.  RAR will handle these animals last.  If the break occurs outside of the animal room the animals must be euthanized or placed into quarantine to assess their disease status before being allowed to return to the colony. Animals that arrive in the facility with infectious diseases that are excluded must also be quarantined until the diseases can be cleared. 
  • Investigators must also separate any use of conventional and SPF animals to prevent spread of disease. This means not entering an SPF room within one day after having been in a conventional rodent area, unless one has showered and completely changed clothes and shoes.
  • Animals that have been housed conventionally may be rederived to be SPF.  This may be accomplished by several methods.  Contact an RAR veterinarian for information on rederivation. The Cancer Center's Mouse Manipulative Genetics Laboratory offers rederivation services as a cooperative service with RAR.

Traffic Flow

Please contact a RAR veterinarian for advice on intra-building traffic routes between animal facilities and laboratories.  RAR has established guidelines for flow of foot traffic within its facilities. It is essential to follow these guidelines to prevent the spread of disease throughout the facility
  1. No one and no equipment may enter an SPF rodent room if they or the equipment have previously been in a conventional rodent housing area, unless personnel have showered and changed clothes and shoes and the equipment has been sanitized. (NO EXCEPTIONS)
  2. Restricted access areas should not be entered unless there is legitimate business in that area (i.e. they are not thoroughfares).
  3. Certain rooms may be posted with notice of a special pathogen status within the room. It is important to follow the instructions on these postings, indicating protective clothing requirements and which areas or species may be visited after room entry.

Health Maintenance: Testing, Vaccinations, Antiparasitic Treatment

Rodents and Rabbits

The primary diseases excluded from RAR's SPF rodent colonies include:
Organism Clinical disease Effects on Research
Mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) Wasting and death in neonates or immunodeficient animals Immunomodulation
Sendai virus Pneumonia Immunomodulation, respiratory pathology
Rat sialodacryoadenitis virus (SDAV) "Red tears", swelling in neck region, "dry-eye" Immunomodulation, ocular pathology
Mycoplasma pulmonis Pneumonia Respiratory pathology
Pinworms and fur mites Fur mites- hair loss, scratching, skin damage; Pinworms- no clincal disease Immune modulation, pinworms affect GI physiology, fur mites cause skin pathology


SPF colonies are tested approximately every 1-2 months for these organisms. RAR tests all colonies (including conventional colonies) for these and other organisms on an annual basis. These organisms may cause disease under some circumstances and can affect research. Additional testing must be requested from the area veterinarian. A service fee may be assessed. 

Results of colony testing are available through RAR. Investigators are notified if a new disease is discovered in the colony. However, it is important for investigators to also be aware of what is known to be endemic and what diseases are not screened.

Periodically, disease eradication efforts may be undertaken in the animal colonies. Investigators are consulted prior to initiation of treatment. The decision to eradicate a disease is usually made based on effects on animals or research and current standards of laboratory animal care.

Rabbits may carry Pasteurella multocida. This organism can cause upper respiratory infections ("Snuffles"), pneumonia and other infections throughout the body. SPF rabbits are available and must be housed away from other rabbits. 

Nail, tooth and beak growth is monitored on rabbits, large rodents and birds. These may be trimmed as needed. Investigators are assessed a special service fee.

Dogs and Cats

Dogs and cats receive vaccinations and antiparasitic treatment by the vendor or on entry into the facility, and then annually. Other procedures may be requested by investigators. A special service fee will be assessed.
  • Dogs are vaccinated against canine distemper, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza virus and canine parvovirus
  • Cats are vaccinated against feline panleukopenia, viral rhinotracheitis and calicivirus.
  • Dogs and cats receive a broad-spectrum anthelminthic
  • Dogs are tested for heartworm disease only by request
  • Toenail growth is monitored. Nails are trimmed as needed

Farm Animals

Goats and sheep are vaccinated against clostridial diseases and receive a broad-spectrum anthelminthic drug on entry into the facilities. These may be repeated as necessary. 

Other animals normally receive vaccination and testing according to the requirements of the investigator. 


Non-human Primates

Non-human primates have an extensive quarantine and preventative medicine protocol. This is because of some of the unique diseases they carry, the potential for transmission of these diseases to humans and vice-versa. For these and other reasons, training is required for handling of non-human primates. 
  • All macaque monkeys (Rhesus, cynomolgus, etc.) that are purchased are required to be seronegative for cercopithecine herpesvirus 1 (Herpes B). 
  • Upon entry, animals are quarantined for 6 weeks during which time they receive a complete physical exam, are tested for tuberculosis, endoparasites Shigella and Salmonella, a complete blood count and serum chemistry profile are performed, the animal's nails are trimmed, the teeth cleaned, and the animal is tattooed if needed. 
  • Every 6 months animals are tested for tuberculosis, and their teeth are cleaned and nails trimmed. 
Personnel must be protected from potential non-human primate zoonoses. The basic precautions are biosafety level-2 type precautions. Details of the requirements for protective clothing and procedures to be followed in case of bite or exposure to blood or body fluids are presented during training.

Animal Health Monitoring and Reporting


Veterinary Rounds

All animals in RAR's facilities are observed daily by an animal care staff. Each area of the facility is also assigned a veterinary technician and an Area Veterinarian. The veterinary staff make regular rounds through the facility to observe the animals, their housing conditions and husbandry procedures.

Reporting Animal Health Problems

RAR laboratory animal care staff can report animal health problems to the veterinary staff through an "Animal Health Report" card system. Animal health problems may also be reported to the RAR office at 624-9100. If the phone is not picked up a message can be left, or the on-duty veterinarian can be paged at the Emergency Veterinary Pager, and this number is posted by the phones in all housing areas.

Animal health problems may also be reported to the RAR Veterinary Services office. A message may be left there.  Alternatively, the emergency veterinarian can be paged.  The numbers for the Veterinary Services Office and the Emergency Veterinary pager are posted next to the phones in all housing areas.

Any type of serious animal health problem should be treated as an emergency. Any health problem noted on a weekend or at the end of the day should be treated as an emergency. 

Animal health problems should not be reported by leaving a voice mail message or e-mail with a veterinary technician or veterinarian. These messages may not be picked up soon enough to respond appropriately.

Resolving Problems: Diagnosis, Treatment and Euthanasia

When an animal is experiencing a health problem, the resolution involves a team effort. The area veterinarian or veterinary technician will contact the investigator or their research staff to discuss the problem. Thus it is very important that labs maintain current emergency contact information for RAR veterinary staff to use when there is an animal issue. This information may be part of the cage card, listed as contact name/phone #/email, or it may be provided to the Area RAR staff to post and/or maintain.  Since health problems may be discovered any day of the week, labs are encouraged to provide contact information for one or more people who are willing to be contacted on weekends and holidays. If an animal health problem arises and the research staff cannot be contacted (and no other instructions have been provided), RAR veterinarians are required to use professional judgment on how to proceed. This may involve initiating treatment, palliative care, or euthanasia depending on the situation.

Mouse breeding programs sometimes result in situations where there are newborn pups whose dam has died. If the research staff cannot be contacted and have not left instructions on whether to proceed with an attempt at cross-fostering, RAR will euthanize the newborn litter in those situations..

If a problem is expected as part of the experimental procedure the nature of the problem must be documented in the Animal Care and Use Protocol form. The experimental endpoint and clinical or other criteria for euthanasia of the animal must also be indicated. There must be a scientific justification for allowing an animal to experience unrelieved pain or distress. The veterinary staff will review the Animal Usage Form whenever a new problem is seen.

If a problem occurs that is unexpected the veterinarian will assist in developing a diagnosis and prognosis for the problem.

  • Veterinary examinations and consultations are not charged to investigators
  • Diagnostic testing can be performed on a fee-for-service basis
  • A sick animal may be selected for euthanasia and necropsy to assist in the diagnosis
The veterinarian will discuss treatment options with the investigator. Normally any animal health problem must be treated or monitored until the animal meets criteria requiring euthanasia.
  • Investigators may provide their own drugs and perform their own treatments under the direction of RAR. RAR can provide the names of suppliers for common drugs and supplies.
  • Drugs can be purchased through RAR.
  • RAR can perform treatments.
  • RAR will monitor the progress of all animals and maintain a medical record of its observations and any treatments it performs. 
  • If an animal is not responding to treatment the treatment plan will be re-assessed. Euthanasia may be requested. 
  • Treatment can be directed toward correcting the primary problem, or it may involve providing supportive care or analgesia until the animal recovers, is euthanized or reaches the experimental endpoint.
  • An animal should never be allowed to reach a moribund state or die spontaneously unless it is an approved part of the experiment.


Call 612-624-9100 for emergency care.

There is always an RAR veterinarian on call for animal health emergencies. An emergency is any problem that cannot wait at least overnight (on weekdays) or until the beginning of the next week (if found on holidays/weekends). This can include facility problems that are endangering the animals' health such as temperature or humidity extremes. Call 612-624-9100 for emergency care. If a receptionist is not available, the pager number of the on-duty veterinarian will be on the answering machine. The Emergency Veterinary Pager number is also listed by the phone in all housing areas.


Veterinary Special Services

Veterinary technicians are available by arrangement with RAR to perform some special services for investigators such as obtaining body fluids, administration of drugs including anesthetics and related procedures. These services are billed as time and materials. Please complete the RAR Technical Services Request or contact the Veterinary Services Office at 612-624-9100 for details.

RAR also has specific programs for: 


  • Testing of cell lines for rodent pathogens
  • Rederivation services for production of specific pathogen-free rodents is coordinated through the Mouse Manipulative Genetics Laboratory in the Cancer Center (626-6971).
  • Animal tissues for in vitro experimentation
  • Diagnostic laboratory and pathology support
  • A limited number of veterinary pharmaceuticals are available through RAR. Drugs stocked include antibiotics, anesthetics and some miscellaneous drugs commonly used for procedures and care of research animals. It is the responsibility of the investigator to obtain other drugs that are primarily for experimental use. Controlled Substances must be obtained as described by University policy. Call 624-9100 or 624-3166 for ordering information. Contact an RAR veterinarian for other information on drugs at 624-9100.

Diagnostic Laboratory

Services Provided

RAR's diagnostic laboratory can provide a full range of laboratory services, including hematology, microbiology, serum chemistry, serology and fluid analysis. Tests are either performed in-house or are submitted to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory or other commercial laboratory. All tests are performed on a fee-for-service basis. Contact the RAR Diagnostic Laboratory at 612-624-3961 for details.

Laboratory Reference Values for Common Laboratory Species:




Sample Submission

Samples may be submitted to RAR directly to the laboratory on the Minneaoplis campus or to the RAR offices on the St Paul campus. Each sample must be accompanied by a completed laboratory submission form.

Reporting Results

Laboratory results are copied to the Area Veterinarian and the person submitting the sample. The contact information should be provided on the submission form. CBCs and chemistry profiles are generally available on the next business day if submitted before 2 pm. Other tests may take longer, depending on the type of test and where they are performed. Any test may be ordered STAT. Microbiology submissions are often reported in stages. A preliminary Gram stain and morphology may be available within a day. Biochemical identification and antibiotic sensitivity may take several days. Fungal cultures may take up to 2 weeks.


Necropsy Services Provided

Diagnostic: As part of RAR's animal health surveillance program, diagnostic necropsies may be performed on animals whose deaths cannot be attributed to experimental manipulation. In some instances, it may be necessary to euthanize animals for necropsy. For the latter, permission is sought from the investigator. A necropsy consists of a gross pathological examination. There is no charge for diagnostic necropsies. At the discretion of the Area Veterinarian histopathology or additional diagnostic tests may be ordered. A fee may be associated with these tests. Investigators should discuss the level of diagnosis they are interested in with the area veterinarian or pathologist when submitting animals for diagnostic necropsy and complete a Necropsy Request Form.  Arrangements should be made with the Area Veterinarian if a large animal must be euthanized.  Food and water must be available to small animals left for necropsy. If RAR initiates the necropsy request the investigator is not responsible for making these arrangements.

Research: If research data is needed from the necropsy, this service is provided by the pathologists at the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL). There are fees associated with this service, billed directly from the VDL. Contact the VDL pathologists at 612-625-8787 to discuss the data needed. Complete the VDL’s Necropsy & Sample Submission form, download from http://www.vdl.umn.edu/formsandsupplies/index.htm , and submit it with the animal directly to the VDL. If RAR’s services are needed for transportation, please contact your Area Veterinarian to make arrangements for delivery. RAR charges a nominal fee for transportation services.

Reporting Results

The pathologist or Area Veterinarian will contact the investigator to discuss preliminary findings within 1-2 business days of the necropsy being performed. Final results will be available within 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the types of ancillary testing performed. A final written report will be provided if requested by the investigator.

Consultation and Animal Model Development

Animal Model Development

RAR veterinarians should be an integral part of the process of animal model development. Each protocol submitted to the IACUC undergoes veterinary review. The veterinarian may provide input on model selection, procedures, drugs and dosages, potential complications and endpoints. Investigators should consider consultation with an RAR veterinarian whenever developing a new model or changing to a model with which they have not had direct experience. The veterinarian can provide input based on other researchers who have used the model, can assist in answering questions on the Animal Care and Use Protocol form and can help locate resources to help achieve the research goals.


RAR has video and slide sets on basic animal handling and procedures such as blood collection, anesthesia and surgery. In addition, individual consultation or training sessions, or wet labs may be scheduled.

Drugs and Dosages

Guidelines on drug usage are available in RAR's formulary and through consultation with an RAR veterinarian.

Required Training

RAR Facility Orientation, Training and Access

- Initial RAR Clearance & Facility Access (for new staff)

- Application for U-Card Access to Additional RAR facilities (for changes needed after initial clearance above)
- RAR Training Registration Form for individual training sessions (blood collection, handling & restraint, gavage, etc.)

Initial RAR Clearance Overview

You’ll take RAR Orientation and complete a Facility Tour. If you are working with NHPs, you will complete NHP training (see below). If you are working in an SPF area, you will also complete Microisolator Techniques.

RAR Orientation – Offered Weekly (duration approx. 90 minutes)

You will be introduced to the general principles of the disease control practices used in the Research Animal Resources facilities. Facility traffic patterns and guidelines will be covered, along with procedures used in animal rooms. Many of RAR’s additional services for investigators will also be discussed.

Facility Tours – Most tours occur immediately after Orientation, others are offered weekly, and St. Paul tours are by appointment - call 612-624-9100 to inquire

You will have a tour around the facility you will be working in, and see the various rooms and equipment you will be using.  You will also receive training in CO2 euthanasia for rodents.

Microisolator Technique Training - Offered Weekly

SPF rodent colonies at the University of Minnesota utilize the microisolator system of filtered cages to exclude organisms that can be detrimental to research, including mouse hepatitis virus, mouse parvovirus, rat Sendai virus and Mycoplasma pulmonis. These cages can only be opened under a laminar flow hood or biosafety cabinet using specific techniques.

Note:  You must be logged in to your Google account to view training calendar.

Other Courses - Offered periodically and announced on the RAR-Talk listserv

In addition, RAR veterinary technical staff periodically offer hands on training on such topics as species specific blood collection techniques, animal handling, CO2 euthanasia, rodent gavage, techniques of asepsis for rodent surgery, suture techniques, and rodent anesthesia. Notices about these training sessions are posted on the rar-talk listserv.

Non-human Primate Training - Offered by appointment - call 612-624-9100 to inquire

non-human primates present a variety of challenges for human handlers. non-human primate behavior is extremely complex. Proper behavioral and handling techniques are essential to prevent excessive stress to the animal that can be manifested violently. In addition, because of the close phylogenetic relationship between human and non-human primates, a variety of diseases can be transmitted back and forth. To protect both the animal and the handler, as well as other humans the handler may contact, proper preventative protocols must be followed. These include semi-annual tuberculosis screening, use of protective clothing and familiarity with procedures to follow in case of contact between non-human primate body fluids and exposed human tissue, such as by a bite or scratch, or an eye splash. Training in these biosafety procedures and in proper handling and behavioral techniques is required before non-human primates may be used. 

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The information contained in this site is intended as a reference for University of Minnesota investigators, and animal husbandry and veterinary staff. Drug information and dosages are derived from a variety of sources and do not necessarily guarantee safety or efficacy. Information obtained through this site should not be relied upon as professional veterinary advice. Any medications administered or procedures performed on animals should only be performed by or under order of a qualified, licensed veterinarian.