Pain prevention

A lot of research has been conducted in the last 10-15 years to better understand pain and discomfort in cattle. Cattle are stoical by nature; they mask pain, because in the wild showing signs of pain would make them more susceptible to predators. This means that pain is often not expressed until severe.

A number of indicators of pain can be evaluated including:
  • Decreased movement/locomotion

  • Decreased interaction with other animals in the group

  • Decreased feed intake

  • Changed behaviour related to the source of pain: ear twitching, flank watching, etc

  • Slow to respond to stimuli

  • Changes in posture: standing motionless, drooping ears

  • Indicators of physiological stress - increased heart rate, increased pupil size, trembling

  • Tooth grinding

  • Poor coat condition due to decreased grooming1

In recent years, pain management with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) has become accepted practice for routine procedures such as disbudding and post-operatively. It is also useful in cases of scour or pneumonia. If scour is identified, fluid therapy is the usually the first treatment and pain relief with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) may also be useful.

Where pneumonia is detected, antibiotic therapy supported by NSAID use can make the animal feel better, start eating and make a more rapid recovery.

  1. 1 Hudson, C.D., Whay, H.R., Huxley, J.N. (2008) Recognition and management of pain in cattle. In Practice, 30 (3). pp. 126-134. ISSN 2042-7689