Providing Sand Rats (Psammomys Obesus) Environmental Enrichment is not Inhibiting their Diabetes Development and Use as an Animal Model for Human Diet Induced Type 2 Diabetes

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Lars Friis Mikkelsen, Tine Boserup, Maria Kristina Kiersgaard, Thóra Brynja Bödvarsdottir, Dorte Bratbo Sørensen

The gerbil, Psammomys obesus, commonly known as the fat sand rat, is a well-defined animal model for human type 2 diabetes (T2D). Captive housed fat sand rats often develop serious digging- and gnawing stereotypies but historically, little has been done to improve the housing conditions for the animals by providing environmental enrichment and thereby minimizing or eliminating this unwanted behaviour. Although not scientifically proven, it is generally believed that providing environmental enrichment might inhibit the development of diabetes in the fat sand rats, mainly due to raised activity levels.

This study compared the development of T2D in fat sand rats housed in standard housing conditions and sand rats housed in various enriched environments. The study included 51 fat sand rats in five groups, of which one group acted as the control. The remaining four groups were housed in four different enriched environments for 37 days; including various combinations of provided mazes/burrows, nuts, seeds, maize and barley plus access to salt water. No significant differences were found in the development of diabetes in the five groups. It is concluded that provision of the tested environmental enrichment has no effect on the development of T2D in Psammomys obesus, and hence there are no reasons for not providing captive housed fat sand rats with species-specific environmental enrichment like the tested items to fulfil their natural needs and enhance their welfare.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIntegrative Journal of Veterinary Biosciences
Pages (from-to)1-4
ISSN2577-4492
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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