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We evaluated the effect of an enrichment device (that is, a polyurethane bone) on the voluntary consumption of ethanol-containing gel by single-housed rats. Male Sprague–Dawley rats (n = 5 per group) were exposed for 4 d to each of the following 3 treatments: access to a new synthetic bone and ethanol gel for 1 h daily (treatment 1); a new bone was left in the cage for 24 h, with access to ethanol gel for 1 h daily (treatment 2); and both the bone and ethanol gel remained in the cage for 24 h (treatment 3). Average alcohol consumption over 4 d was 0.86 ± 0.13, 0.99 ± 0.13, and 5.19 ± 0.37 g/kg in the absence of the bone for treatments 1, 2, and 3, respectively, and 1.00 ± 0.13, 0.620 ± 0.07, and 5.55 ± 0.38 g/kg with the bone for treatments 1, 2 and 3, respectively; none of these values differed significantly with regard to presence of the bone. During treatment 1, time spent with the synthetic bone was highest on the first 2 d, which altered the rate of ethanol consumption but not the total amount of ethanol consumed. During treatments 2 and 3, the rate and amount of ethanol consumption were comparable to basal levels. We conclude that adding an enrichment device that rats can chew and manipulate does not alter ethanol gel consumption. If used, environmental enrichment techniques should be evaluated during the research planning stages to avoid unintended alterations in the response to variables of interest.
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