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Clinicians’ attitudes to pain and the use of analgesia in cattle
  1. Jon Reader, BVSc, DCHP, MRCVS
  1. Synergy Farm Health, West Hill Barns, Evershot, Dorset, DT20LD, UK
  1. e-mail: jon.reader{at}

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There is now unequivocal evidence demonstrating the benefits of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the management of bovine disease. This includes mastitis,1 respiratory disease2 and more recently lameness.3 However, there is also good evidence that the use of these NSAIDs has a benefit in routine procedures such as disbudding and castration.4

NSAIDs have a range of actions including anti-inflammatory action and anti-pyrexic properties, as well as pain relief. It is not always clear which of these properties are responsible for the benefit seen, but most importantly there is a net benefit to the health and welfare to the animal.

The role of inflammation in the pathogenesis of disease in both people and cattle is a key research area. In people, macrophage secreted factors have been shown to induce adipocyte inflammation and insulin resistance5 and it may be that this is a possible fundamental precursor for many of the periparturient-related problems that we see in cattle.

Cows are stoical animals and it is likely that for cows to demonstrate pain then a significant pain threshold needs to have been reached. Everyone will have a different response to their own physical pain and in the same way clinical attitudes to pain will also vary. Huxley and Whay first examined this concept in 2006.6 Now a paper by Remnant and others from the same group,7 summarised on p 400 of this week’s Veterinary Record, have revisited the situation 10 years on. Showing a fascinating insight into how the perception of pain has changed.

When the initial paper was published in 2006 it was difficult for some of us to quantify the pain associated with certain procedures in the absence of pain relief, especially local anaesthetic. However, as we have moved on over the past 10 …

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