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Oral Gavage in the Rat

Material can be administered orally using a number of different techniques, although gavage using a stomach tube is the most widely used. To minimise the risk of adverse effects associated with this procedure, it is important that the operator is skilled both in the technique and the restraint method needed.

Although gavage can be undertaken using rigid dosing cannulae, flexible catheters or tubes are preferred, as these are less likely to cause oesophageal trauma. Inadvertent dosing into the lung can occur, which usually results in the animal showing immediate signs of respiratory distress. If such signs are observed, then the animal should be immediately humanely killed.

As an alternative to gavage, some materials may be consumed voluntarily in palatable mixtures (e.g. flavoured syrups, Leach et al, 2010*, Corbett et al, 2012**). Rats can also be trained to drink voluntarily from a syringe (see video on right) and this approach has been shown to be both effective and to result in accurate dosing (Atcha et al, 2010***). Material can also be dosed using a small flexible catheter introduced only into the animal’s mouth. When possible, these approaches are to be preferred to dosing using a stomach tube, since they are not associated with complications, such as tracheal dosing or oesophageal rupture.

*Leach et al (2010) Influence of preferred foodstuffs on the antinociceptive effects of orally administered buprenorphine. Laboratory Animals 44, 54-58
**Corbett, A, et al (2012) A method for reliable voluntary oral administration of a fixed dosage (mg/kg) of chronic daily medication to rats. Lab Animals 46, 318—324
***Atcha et al, (2010) Alternative method of oral dosing for rats. JAALAS, 49, 335-343

Click here to download the trainers pack for this technique which includes the video above (76Mb). Please note our terms of use.


A series of tutorials to assist research workers develop their skills in the administration of substances to laboratory animals.

The material was developed by Newcastle University with the support of the IAT and the NC3Rs.

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