The Effects of Shipping on Early Pregnancy in Laboratory Rats


Correspondence to: Kathleen R. Pritchett-Corning, Research Models and Services, Charles River, 251 Ballardvale St, Wilmington, MA 01887. E-mail:


Although rats in various stages of pregnancy are routinely shipped by vendors, the effects of shipping on pregnancy outcomes have not been reported. This study examined the effects of shipping rats 1 day after mating. Two outbred stocks, (Crl:CD(SD), Crl:WI(Han)) and one inbred strain (F344/Crl) of rats (n = 300/strain) were mated in a vendor barrier room at 3-month intervals five times, and either shipped the next day (total time in transit ∼24 hr) or held in the room of origin until parturition. The pregnancy status, length of gestation, number of pups born per female, sex ratio of pups born, and neonatal mortality were compared between transported and nontransported rats. These pregnancy and litter parameters were also compared among strains and examined for seasonality; no seasonal effects were observed. Neonatal mortality was negligible at less than 2% in any of the groups. All sex ratios were normal. Transportation affected pregnancy rates only in the F344/Crl, in which 81.8% of the nontransported versus 70% of the transported rats had pups (p = 0.025). Overall, slightly fewer transported rats were pregnant, but they had larger litters (10.08 compared with 9.68, p = 0.02, pooling across all three strains) so produced the same numbers of pups. A total of 77 ± 8% of transported rats had gestation periods of 22 days or more compared with only 52 ± 10% in the nontransported rats. The reason for larger litters in transported females is unclear. Longer gestation in transported females may be due to facultative embryonic diapause, which might have implications for reproductive toxicology.