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The Importance of Proper Euthanasia Techniques

Posted Apr 09 2009 7:16pm

I know, I know – I said I had all these interesting tales to tell, and then fell off the radar again. I promise, this will pick back up shortly. I’ve been busy trying to make some changes to the layout and also toyed around with the idea of getting rid of this altogether and just getting my own domain name and starting up my own webpage. I think that will require too much time, though, and not something that I need to be working on when classes are starting right around the corner.

I have tried playing around with a new layout but haven’t been happy with anything yet. I think I finally have an idea that might work but now I’m having difficulties with some of the blogger tags. Once I get this situated and in order, maybe I’ll have the motivation to actually use this a bit more!

In the meantime, I can’t believe that summer is wrapping up. I love love love what I have been doing at NIH/NCI and really have no desire whatsoever to return to my thesis lab. I’m supposed to be going back within the next 2 weeks, and I feel like my thesis mentor will have to drag me out of the NIH, kicking and screaming and holding on to the HPLC machine for dear life. It’s not that I hate my thesis lab or anything; just that this summer has opened my eyes to research that can actually be interesting (truthfully, all the cloning and Western blotting I have done over the past year in my thesis lab bores me to tears).

I’ve had some amazing opportunities here that I will never get at my university, namely, the opportunity to scrub in on primate transplant surgery. It was completely unexpected and not at all affiliated with my lab group (in fact, not even with the National Cancer Institute), but after I finished up my mouse skills training class, the veterinarian asked if I had an interest in scrubbing in to macaque monkey transplant surgery. Needless to say, it was fascinating.

I do have one entertaining story to share, because you should at least get a laugh out of my near-death situation. During the week, the person who has been training me (in both the pharmacokinetic laboratory aspect and the animal studies) was out sick, leaving me to dose the mice on my own. Everything was going smoothly until I reach the last cage of mice, which was labeled as having 5 animals (because of how we have divided things up, there are different numbers in each cage). I had oral gavaged four of the mice, and couldn't find the fifth in the cage. My first thought was that while I was busy treating, one made a run for it and climbed out of the cage and was free to roam around the room, which induced a mini panic-attack, because how do I explain that I lost a mouse? Eventually I discovered that the fifth mouse had died overnight, and his fellow cagemates had buried him in the corner under all the bedding. Not the end of the world – that’s why you include extra animals in a study, right? So I pulled out the deceased mouse, stuck him in one of the euthanasia bags, and walked down the hall to put him in the carcass freezer in the procedure room. Imagine my incredible surprise (and resulting near heart attack) when I opened the freezer room, and two rats jumped out at me. That’s right. Two LIVE RATS jumped out of the CARCASS FREEZER. There was one other person in the procedure room, a big manly-looking man, who caught this out of the corner of his eye and started screaming like a girl. It’s not that I mind rodents – I handle them every day – but the last thing you expect to find in a freezer full of animal carcasses is a pair of live rats that chewed their way out of their euthanasia bags. We then had the distinct pleasure of chasing these rats around the procedure room for 20 minutes to catch them, and properly euthanize them. The moral of this story is that when euthanizing rats with CO2, please please be sure to cervical dislocate afterwards to make sure the animals are really dead, because you never know what poor little PhD student is going to be startled half to death because you tried to cut some corners. I think that I may have developed a lifelong fear of freezers as a result.

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