ClearH2O conducted a comprehensive survey of 160+ experienced animal care professionals on the topic of ulcerative dermatitis (UD) in research vivaria. The survey aimed to explore their first-hand experiences with UD, ranging from incidence rates to potential causes, treatment methods, and the pivotal role that nutrition may play in prevention and intervention. The insights contained will aid in understanding and addressing this critical issue to uncover solutions and improve the welfare of laboratory animals. In this post, we explore the various treatment methods available for ulcerative dermatitis, how commonly they are used, and how effective they are as reported by laboratory animal science professionals.
Treating Ulcerative Dermatitis
There are numerous ways researchers can treat ulcerative dermatitis in their rodent colonies and one of the primary goals of the UD survey was to help uncover which methods are most popular and most effective. Participants were asked about how their facility treats UD and were instructed to select all of the options applicable. The responses were as follows: Topical creams or clays (109), nail trims (107), euthanasia (76), separating animals (69), dietary supplements (36), other (17), and pumice stone (8). The graph below outlines this distribution.
According to the survey, it is clear that topical creams and nail trims are generally the most common treatment practices for ulcerative dermatitis. Unfortunately, many institutions have to euthanize animals if they do not respond to treatment or if the animal is no longer needed for a study. This is especially difficult when working with valuable aged models that can be more vulnerable to UD. Survey participants were then asked to briefly describe their treatment procedure for ulcerative dermatitis. One of the respondents said, “Nail trims if not bad, topical cream if animal is very important and needs to reach an end point within a reasonable time, and euthanasia if UD is over a significant part of body.” A very similar procedure was reflected often in the different responses to this question and it seems topical creams and nail trims are generally the most reliable treatments available.
Effectiveness of Treatment
Though topical creams and nail trims are the most widely used treatments according to the survey, some of the survey participants indicated that they are not 100% effective. Respondents were asked whether or not they believed their standard treatment procedure resolves UD in most cases and 23.3% said no while 76.7% said yes. While it is encouraging to see that the majority of respondents find that their treatments are effective, there is a considerable portion that has found treatment to be ineffective. The survey asked respondents who responded “no” to this question to explain further. Here are some of the responses:
- “In cases where nail trims helped, we would still see recurring UD in the same animals and would have to restart treatment (most prevalent in certain strains and aged mice).”
- “It helps with some mice, especially if it is caught in the early stages. Some mice treatment has no effect and the UD can get severe quickly leaving euthanasia as the only option.”
- “Treatment usually keeps them healthy enough to keep until pups wean or until the experiment is finished and they are used acutely. Animals can be kept more comfortable, but the dermatitis usually returns…”
- “Depending of the strain and age of the animal and when we start the treatment, in some situations it is not resolving well. Then, animal welfare is a concern if it takes too long.”
- “If dermatitis has escalated to the point when it is ulcerative, most deep lesions do not heal without at least some contracture and it can take weeks for complete resolution.”
Based on these responses, factors like strain, age, and how early the UD is caught can impact how effective the treatment will be. In some cases, nail trims and topical creams may improve the animal’s condition or keep them more comfortable for a time, but ulcerative dermatitis tends to return in highly-susceptible animals.
Dietary Supplements for Treatment
For highly-susceptible rodents (aged models or Black 6 background strains), it may make sense to add a dietary supplement to the UD treatment procedure. Researchers have found a direct correlation between dietary fat and skin mast cell degranulation in female B6 mice, and low-fat rodent diets may improve the incidence of UD (1). Balanced fatty acids may play an important role in preventing and treating UD, and a dietary supplement can deliver an appropriate balance. In addition, researchers have looked at the relationship between a healthy gut and the incidence of dermatitis-like skin lesions. One study explored the oral administration of galactooligosaccharide (GOS), a prebiotic, in NC/Nga mice and found that, “mice fed GOS exhibited significantly less
symptoms of dermatitis” (2).
Animal care teams that are looking for a dietary supplement that contains these nutritional components will find it in DietGel® Derm. This supplement combines key prebiotic and nutritional ingredients identified as supporting gut health and the conditions associated with addressing ulcerative dermatitis (UD) in rodents. It can be used in addition to other treatments like nail trims and topical creams for highly-susceptible rodent populations. DietGel® Derm is available to sample for free here.
How to Treat Ulcerative Dermatitis: Resources
(1) Contributions of Diet and Age to Ulcerative Dermatitis in Female C57BL/6J Mice
(2) Oral administration of a galactooligosaccharide preparation inhibits development of atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in NC/Nga mice