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Title: The perception and relief of pain associated with lameness in dairy cattle
Author: Whay, Helen Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0001 2417 9787
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 1998
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Cattle lameness is the biggest disease problem facing dairy farmers in the United Kingdom at this time. Current figures show that over 50 per cent of dairy cattle become clinically lame each year. In addition to the loss of productivity associated with lameness the question of whether the animals welfare is compromised through pain and suffering associated with lameness needs to be addressed. Also how relief from such suffering can be approached using the resources available to the modem dairy farmer and veterinary surgeon. Many diseases of the claws and lower limbs of cattle with differing aetiology and pathogenesis are brought together under the heading of lower limb lameness. Fifteen different lesions are commonly seen with many more occurring sporadically. The lameness ranges from acute to chronically persistent often with similar lesions seen in repeated lactations. During an episode of lameness the cow is frequently expected to continue to compete for nutrition and lying space within the herd environment and, during the summer months, to walk long distances to and from pasture. This is a management approach which is likely to decrease the welfare and increase the suffering of a lame dairy cow. The aim of the study was to evaluate the changes in behaviour of dairy cattle which are associated with lameness by locomotion and lameness scoring, the observation of spontaneous behaviours and changes in demeanour. To then relate these changes to parameters such as nociceptive threshold, lesion type and claw pathology, endocrine response and changes in weight bearing. Also, to study the effects of analgesics on these behaviours and objective parameters. In so doing to build up a picture of the animal's perception of the pain associated with lameness. The results showed that parturition represented a period of high risk for the appearance of claw lesions and the onset of lameness in dairy heifers. Clinical lameness in lactating dairy cows was associated with a decrease in mechanical nociceptive thresholds indicating the presence of hyperalgesia in these animals. The hyperalgesia persisted in cattle with chronic claw diseases up to 28 days after the lesion was treated and behavioural signs of lameness were no longer present but was not later detected in those individuals with acute digital tissue infections. The administration of a Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug with analgesic properties to cattle with a hind limb lameness resulted in a significant modulation in the level of hyperalgesia over a 28 day period. This modulation was not observed in lame cattle who were given a control treatment of Sterile Saline in association with a programme of conventional treatment. Postural changes associated with lameness were ameliorated through a conventional treatment programme while the demeanour of the lame animals was seen to improve when offered analgesia concurrently with treatment. In summary, chronically lame cattle were found to be in a persistent hyperalgesic state indicative of pain. Further evidence of suffering was provided by behavioural observation and the evidence of some, but not total, relief from pain through the administration of analgesia. It could therefore be concluded that there is pain associated with lameness which is likely to cause the animal suffering. In the future a more integrated approach to the treatment, management and analgesia of lame cattle is required to provide relief from this suffering
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Analgesia ; Hyperalgesia