Ringtail is a pathologic condition of laboratory rodents characterized by annular constrictions of the tail. Traditionally, it is classified as an environmental disorder caused by low relative humidity, but other factors (temperature, dietary deficiencies, genetic susceptibility, and caging type) have also been proposed. Twenty litters of mice with ringtail lesions occurred from September 2010 to August 2013 in a facility located in the northern Italy. Mice were maintained under controlled environmental conditions and fed a standard diet. Retrospective analysis of environmental data (relative humidity, temperature) was carried out. Gross, histopathologic, scanning, and transmission electron microscopy examination of tails and limbs was performed. The incidence of ringtail was 0.075% (20/26 800) of all weaned litters over the 3-year period of examination. Temperature and relative humidity remained within accepted limits in all cases except one. We observed annular constrictions in tail, digits of pes, crus, and antebrachium in 116 (100.0%), 47 (40.5%), 11 (9.5%), and 2 (1.7%) of 116 affected mice, respectively. Histologic and ultrastructural examination revealed abnormal keratin desquamation and presence of a keratin ring encircling the tail, causing progressive strangulation of the growing tail with subsequent compression and ulceration of underlying soft tissues, resulting in circulatory changes (edema, hyperemia, thrombosis, hemorrhages), ischemic necrosis, and eventually auto-amputation distal to the constriction. On the basis of our findings, we suggest a disorder of cornification as the primary lesion of ringtail in mice. The cause of these cases, however, remained undetermined, even though traditional etiologic factors (relative humidity, temperature, diet, caging type) were reasonably excluded.
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