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Conference abstract - Peer-reviewed, 2004

The effects of an outdoor environment on physiology, activity and behaviour in laboratory Beagle dogs

Lars, Björklund; AstraZeneca, R D; Mölndal ; Spangenberg, Elin; Dahlborn, Kristina


Laboratory dogs are usually housed in an indoor pen of various size, sometimes combined with a run or kennel for exercise. The requirements for housing of laboratory animals include standardisation and a controlled environment. Housing dogs in an outdoor environment means that the environment cannot be fully controlled and this might influence the animal model. However, an increased pen size and a more varied housing environment provide incentives for the dogs to increase their physical activity and also improve their physical fitness. The aim of this study was to investigate if housing with access to an outdoor kennel (OH) influenced the physiological parameters relevant for animal models in cardiovascular and gastrointestinal research and for safety assessment of new drugs. In addition, we also aimed to evaluate how the dogs used the outdoor kennel – how often do they go outside and for how long do they stay outside? Finally, we compared activity and activity-related behaviours in OH and indoor housing (IH). Eight male juvenile Beagles dogs were randomised into two groups and kept in two different housing systems in a cross-over design. They were housed pairwise either in an indoor pen furnished with elevated shelves and “beds” (IH, 11m2), or in the same type of pen but with access to an outdoor kennel (11m2) during daytime (OH). Activity (steps per hour), behaviour, and usage of outdoor facilities were recorded twice a week during six weeks. In addition, the dogs were weighed once weekly and blood samples were taken three times a week to monitor physiological parameters for kidney, liver, pancreas and immune system functions. Four of the dogs were housed with access to outdoor kennel prior to the study and the other four had only been housed indoors. The dogs derived from indoor housing were selected for a small size, which is suitable for the ongoing research at that facility. OH resulted in a significantly higher activity level (p<0.001), a higher frequency of the behaviours moving (p<0.001) and investigate (p<0.01), and a lower level of the behaviour passive (p<0.001). The physiological parameters alanine amino transferase, white blood cell count (WBC), granulocytes and neutrophils were significantly higher in IH (all p<0.001), while cholesterol was lower (p<0.01), compared to OH. However, all physiological parameters were kept within normal ranges. The dogs spent on average 162 out of 500 possible minutes per day outside and the average frequency of entering the outdoor kennel was 102 times per day. Dogs housed indoors prior to the study had a higher frequency of passive behaviour (p<0.05), spent more time outdoors (p<0.05), and had lower levels of cholesterol (p<0.001) WBC, granulocytes and eosinophils (all p<0.01). In conclusion, dogs can be housed with access to an outdoor kennel without alterations in physiological parameters outside the normal ranges. Further, OH clearly increased the voluntary activity and activity-related behaviours of the dogs and may therefore increase their physical fitness and this should be beneficial for their welfare. The extensive use of the outdoor kennel showed that it was a valuable resource for the dogs

Published in


The 16th Nordic Symposium of the International Society for Applied Ethology