Feeding – University of Copenhagen


Behaviour of postnatally growth-impaired mice during malnutrition and after partial weight recovery

By R.C. Huber, A.F. Kolb, S. Lillico, A. Carlisle, P. Sandøe, D.B. Sørensen, L. Remuge, B.C.A Whitelaw & A.I.S Olsson (2013)
Nutritional Neuroscience
. Maney Online.


Objectives: Early malnutrition is a highly prevalent condition in developing countries. Different rodent models of postnatal early malnutrition have been used to approach the subject experimentally, inducing early malnutrition by maternal malnutrition, temporal maternal separation, manipulation of litter size or the surgical nipple ligation to impair lactation. Studies on the behaviour of (previously) malnourished animals using animal models have produced sometimes contradictory results regarding the effects of early postnatal malnutrition and have been criticized for introducing potential confounding factors.

The present paper is a first report on the behavioural effects of early malnutrition induced by an alternative approach: mice nursed by α-casein-deficient knockout dams showed a severe growth delay during early development and substantial catch-up growth after weaning when compared with animals nursed by wild-type females.

Methods: Established behavioural tests were used to study the consequences of early postnatal malnutrition on mouse pups at weaning and after partial weight recovery.

Results: Despite the impaired growth, the only behavioural difference between malnourished and normally growing animals was found in exploratory behaviour during acute malnutrition at the time of weaning. After partial catch-up in weight early protein malnourished animals showed no indication of lasting effects on general activity, emotionality and exploration, memory, and pain reactivity.

Discussion: These results suggest that the role of early nutrition on behavioural development after recovery in animal models may have been overestimated. Further careful examination of this animal model in terms of maternal care and offspring behaviour will be necessary to confirm if mice nursed by α-casein-deficient dams offer an alternative to existing models while eliminating potential confounding factors.

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Ethics of feeding: The omnivore dilemma

By I. H. E. Kasanen, D. B. Sørensen, B. Forkman & P. Sandøe (2010)
Animal Welfare. UFAW. 


The way in which animals are fed is an important aspect of their welfare. Not only does food provide the energy and nutrients vital for survival, but feeding is also associated with a number of other factors contributing to the well-being of animals. The feeding method can determine the animals' abilities to fulfil basic behavioural needs, such as foraging. The aim of this paper is to review and discuss the dilemma of choosing between ad libitum feeding (AL) and dietary restriction (DR). AL can produce obese individuals with severe health problems, though it does appear to be compatible with welfare-friendly management systems. On the other hand, DR is often associated with improved physical health and longevity but can leave animals suffering from hunger, frustration or aggression.

The species discussed are the laboratory rat, pigs and poultry all of which are omnivores sharing many characteristics in their eating habits. The welfare implications of different feeding methods depend upon the definition of welfare used. Based on a definition of welfare in terms of functioning, DR could be considered the best way to feed animals, because it results in improved physical health and longevity. If welfare is defined in terms of natural living, it is also a requirement for the animal to be able to engage in natural foraging behaviours. From the feelings-based approach, DR can be viewed as preferable only in circumstances when animals are anticipated to live so long that they would otherwise suffer from the negative long-term consequences of AL. It is argued that incentives are needed to make farmers spend resources to ensure that farm animals are allowed to have their foraging-related needs fulfilled. Feeding of laboratory animals creates special dilemmas when it is important either to under- or over-nourish the animals for experimental purposes, in such instances there is a need for Refinement. 

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