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Effect of caustic paste disbudding, using local anaesthesia with and without analgesia, on behaviour and cortisol of calves

By G. Stilwell, R. C. de Carvalho, M. S. Lima, D. M. Broom

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We looked at the effects of local anaesthesia with or without a non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory analgesic drug (flunixin-meglumine) on behaviour and plasma cortisol after caustic paste disbudding of 1-month-old calves: at 15 min, 1, 3, 6 and 24 h (Experiment 1; n=32); at 10, 30 and 50 min (Experiment 2; n=35); and after local anaesthesia effect subsided (90-180 min) (Experiment 3; n=16). In Experiment 1, cortisol was higher at 1 h in paste-disbudded calves than in all other groups. Paste-disbudded and paste-disbudded plus local anaesthesia calves showed higher cortisol at 1 h compared with baseline values. At 15 min paste-disbudded calves showed a higher incidence of pain-related behaviours than all other groups and those with anaesthetic or anaesthetic plus analgesia showed more pain-related behaviours than controls. At 1 and 3 h both paste-disbudded and paste-disbudded plus anaesthetic calves showed more pain behaviours than controls and those with analgesic. In Experiment 2, paste-disbudded calves showed higher cortisol than all other groups at 30 and 50 min. No difference in cortisol was found between anaesthetic, anaesthetic plus analgesia and sham-disbudded calves. The incidence of pain-related behaviours was greater in paste-disbudded calves than in all other groups at all times. Calves disbudded with anaesthetic or with anaesthetic and analgesic showed more pain-related behaviours than sham-disbudded animals during the first 10 min post-procedure. In Experiment 3, paste-disbudded only calves had higher cortisol at 90 min and the anaesthetic-only group had higher cortisol at 180 min, when compared with control animals. Paste-disbudded calves showed more pain-related behaviours at 90, 120 and 150 min, and the anaesthetic-only disbudded calves at 180 min, when compared with sham-disbudded calves. In Experiment 1 and Experiment 3, several disbudded animals showed an "inert-lying" posture and this state may have reduced the display of the other more active behaviours. The evidence indicates that caustic paste disbudding causes distress for at least 3 h and that local anaesthesia is efficient in controlling pain for the first hour but discomfort returns after the nerve blocking subsides. Overall, only local anaesthesia+NSAID provided effective reduction in pain as assessed by this method. Inert lying is a sign of distress in young calves after caustic paste disbudding.

Date 2009
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 116
Issue 1
Pages 35-44
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.06.008
Language English
Author Address Centro de Investigacao Interdisciplinar em Sanidade Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinaria, UTL, Alto da Ajuda, 1300-477 Lisboa, Portugal.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Analgesia
  2. Anesthesia
  3. Animal behavior
  4. Animal physiology
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Blood
  7. Calves
  8. Cortisol
  9. Effect
  10. Hydrocortisone
  11. Incidence
  12. Pain
  13. pain relief
  14. peer-reviewed
  15. Posture
  16. Techniques
  1. peer-reviewed