Guinea Pigs and Hamsters Used in Research


Long associated with the pet trade as small companion animals, guinea pigs and hamsters are extensively used as laboratory animals. Over 200,000 guinea pigs and approximately 170,000 hamsters are used in research each year in the U.S. Of the animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act (i.e., not including mice, rats, and birds bred for use in research, fish, and other cold-blooded animals), only rabbits are used more.

Guinea pigs continue to be used in significant numbers for toxicity and safety tests, to investigate the effects of cigarette smoke, alcohol, and drugs, and to research spinal cord injury, tuberculosis, the auditory system, kidney function, osteoarthritis, nutrition, genetics, infectious diseases, and reproductive biology.

Hamsters are frequently used to study sensory systems such as taste and vision. They are also used as models for cardiopulmonary, inflammatory, and neoplastic diseases; cardiomyopathy; estrogen-induced carcinogenesis; drug and carcinogen metabolism; muscular dystrophy therapy; aging; asthma; pancreatic cancer; prion-type (mad cow) diseases; and various aspects of natural and artificial biorhythms.

Disturbingly, in 2006, 12 percent of guinea pigs (nearly 25,000 individuals) and 20 percent of hamsters (more than 33,000 individuals) were used in experiments that involved significant pain and distress that was not alleviated by either anesthetics or analgesics.


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