2021 journal article
Comparative effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at castration and tail-docking in neonatal piglets
PLOS ONE, 16(11).
This study assessed the efficacy of meloxicam, flunixin, and ketoprofen in piglets undergoing routine castration and tail-docking. Six-day-old male piglets (8/group) received one of five randomized treatments: intramuscular saline (SAL PROC), meloxicam (MEL; 0.4 mg/kg), flunixin (FLU; 2.2 mg/kg), ketoprofen (KETO; 3.0 mg/kg) or sham (SAL SHAM; saline injection, no processing). Two hours post-dose, piglets were castrated and tail-docked. Plasma cortisol, interstitial fluid (ISF) prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and activity levels via Actical® monitoring were used to estimate pain. SAL SHAM and FLU exhibited lower cortisol concentrations than SAL PROC at the time of processing (p = 0.003 and p = 0.049, respectively), and all NSAIDs exhibited lower PGE2 than SAL PROC at 3.69 hours (MEL p = 0.050; FLU p = 0.043 and KETO p = 0.031). While not statistically significant, PGE2 was higher in SAL PROC piglets vs. other treatment groups at most time points. There was also a high degree of variability between piglets, especially for SAL PROC. Activity levels were significantly decreased at multiple time points in SAL PROC and MEL piglets following processing. However, FLU and KETO piglets had increased activity levels closer to that of the SAL SHAM group, suggesting that these NSAIDs are more effective than MEL in providing analgesia. These results demonstrate that management strategies including administration of intramuscular flunixin or ketoprofen to reduce pain associated with processing will likely improve piglet health and welfare in the United States.