Source: University of British Columbia
A new study from the UBC Animal Welfare Program was published in Biology Letters – looking at how a painful procedure and the use of pain control strategies impacts the memory of the experience in dairy calves.
Pain in animals is typically assessed using reflexive and physiological responses. These measures allow inferences regarding nociception but provide little basis for conclusions about the affective component of pain (i.e. how negatively the experience is perceived). Calves routinely undergo painful procedures on commercial farms, including hot-iron disbudding, providing a convenient model to study pain in animals. The aim of this study was to investigate the affective component of post-procedural pain due to hot-iron disbudding, using conditioned place aversion. Calves (n = 31) were subjected to two procedures (one bud at a time): one without post-procedural pain control and the other with the use of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (either meloxicam (n = 16) or ketoprofen (n = 15)). All procedures included the use of local anaesthesia (lidocaine). Place conditioning was tested 2 days after the last treatment by allowing calves to freely roam between the pens where they had previously been disbudded. Calves spent more time, and lay down more frequently, in the pen where they received meloxicam compared with the pen where they only received a local block. Surprisingly, calves avoided the pen where they received ketoprofen compared with the control treatment pen. We hypothesize that the shorter duration of action of ketoprofen resulted in increasing pain at the end of the conditioning period, explaining the increased aversion to this treatment. These results illustrate the value of place conditioning paradigms to assess the affective component of pain in animals, and suggest that the animal’s evaluation of painful events depends upon the time course of when the pain is experienced.