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The use of diazepam as a pharmacological validation of eye white as an indicator of emotional state in dairy cows

By A. I. Sandem, A. M. Janczak, R. Salte, B. O. Braastad

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Abstract

This experiment aims at validating the percentage of visible white in the eye as an emotional indicator, related to the frustration-contentedness axis, in cattle. Earlier experiments showed that the calculated percentage of white in the eyes was larger in frustrated or scared cows compared to cows that were offered a positive stimulus. This eye change was therefore suggested to be a dynamic indicator of emotions in dairy cattle, a high percentage of white in the eye indicating frustration, and a low percentage indicating satisfaction. In the present paper, the hypothesis was that treatment with the anti-anxiety drug diazepam should reduce the percentage of white in the eye in frustrated cows, but have no effect on the percentage of eye white in non-frustrated or rewarded cows. The test animals were 20 randomly selected commercial dairy cows (Norwegian Red Cattle). Two experiments were performed on hungry cows. The four different groups in the first experiment are described in the following. Ten cows were introduced to a frustrating situation, being thwarted from access to visible food (treatment I). Ten cows were introduced to a positive situation, access to food (treatment II). The 10 cows in group I were introduced to the same frustrating situation, but were now pretreated with diazepam (treatment III). The 10 cows in group II were introduced to the same positive situation after pretreatment with diazepam (treatment IV). The two groups in the second experiment were 20 untreated (treatment I) and 20 diazepam-treated (treatment II) cows introduced to a positive, conditioned stimulus, a stockman entering the stall at concentrate feeding time. All predictions were confirmed, supporting the hypothesis that increased percentage of eye white is an emotional indicator of frustration in cows.

Date 2006
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 96
Issue 3/4
Pages 177-183
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, P.O. Box 5003, NO-1432 As, Norway. bjarne.braastad@umb.no
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Cattle
  3. Dairy animals
  4. Diazepam
  5. Drugs
  6. Efficacy
  7. Emotions
  8. Eyes
  9. Fear
  10. Frustration
  11. Mammals
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. pharmacokinetics
  14. Pharmacology & Pharmacy
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  1. peer-reviewed