Using Anti-Inflammatory Drugs To Reduce Pain In Cattle

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With the advent of the increasing consciousness in animal welfare, any products which can relieve pain, decrease inflammation and reduce fever are a welcome addition to the repertoire we as veterinarians have to treat clinical disease.

They also may have a place in controlling post-surgical pain or inflammation such as with castration or dehorning. With pain/ inflammation/fever controlled there is less stress, appetite is maintained in many cases and as a result calves recover more quickly and are less likely to contract conditions such as the respiratory disease complex.

All the NSAIDs are prescription drugs so must be prescribed first by your veterinarian and they may incorporate them into treatment protocols for the treatment of specific diseases on your farm. There are three main groups:

Flunixine(Banamine was the original and now there are many generics).

Ketoprofen similar to human ibuprofen with the trade name Anafen.

Meloxicam (trade name Metacam). This product has a huge market for treating small-animal arthritis and is the most recent one to be approved in large animals. Each of these products may be used for different reasons based on the veterinarian s preference. The Metacam can be given by either intravenous or subcutaneous administration and is effective for about two to three days in cattle, which may have an advantage depending on when the patient has to be re-treated.

As mentioned in an earlier article the company that makes Banamine has combined it together with an antibiotic floramphenical in the same product calling it Resflor. It did some research on this product and found very good recoveries with less scarring of lungs in pneumonia cases. Recovery was quicker and the antibiotic could work better so death loss and percentage of chronics was reduced. Banamine by itself is only approved for intravenous usage but in the antibiotic combination called Resflor can be given subcutaneously.

The Banamine lasts for greater than one day and the antibiotic levels carry on for four days. It shows that the one good shot of an anti-inflammatory really helps economically and there often is not the need to repeat the treatment.

All these products must be given at their recommended method of administration according to the label otherwise we are guessing at their withdrawal or it may result in tissue damage.

The company which makes Metacam (Boehringer Ingelheim) looked at using the product on clinically affected scouring calves, along with the standard scour treatments such as electrolytes. They found that their appetite was better and they recovered on average quicker and were less active. Probably because of uneasiness, gas pains or pain in general the non-Metacam-treated calves weren t nearly as content. Thus treated calves put more energy into getting better and recover quicker. One must make sure the patients are properly hydrated and have good urine flow as in underhydrated calves, kidneys may be harmed.

Dehorning pain

Boehringer Ingelheim in another study looked at the pain response from hot-iron dehorning in young calves. While dehorning is becoming less with using polled bulls in the beef breeds, dehorning is still routine in young dairy calves and some strains of beef breeds.

The study used readers to record pain response. The pressure pushing down around the dehorning site was recorded and response was elicited with calves struggling or pulling back. These calves were done at the normal six-to 12-week age and a significant reduction in pain responses were noted.

Some were even given local anesthetic as well but that wears off after a few hours and the Metacam took over. The same principle really applies to dehorning as to the scouring calves appetite will be maintained, calves will be less stressed and recover quicker plus be less prone to get sick. This is a win-win situation and should return revenue to the producer especially in light of the fact that the amount of product is small in these young calves.

Other researchers are currently looking at using Metacam and other NSAIDs when doing other painful procedures such as castration or branding. Animal welfare is pretty much at the top of the list when it comes to the public s vision of food production and food safety. The painful procedures just mentioned plus respiratory disease and lameness in the feedlot are other welfare issues these products may help us treat.

With castration the push is to do it at a younger age with a painkiller of some type. In other countries Metacam has on the label for use in E. coli mastitis and septicemia. Here it would need to be prescribed by your veterinarian but it goes to show for most medical conditions NSAIDs have a place in treatment.

In order to be adopted for routine procedures producers need treatments to be effective, economical, easy to administer, long lasting and have no longer of a withdrawal than most antibiotics. These products fit the bill. Although they do cost money when using them for routine procedures on young calves the dose is small. There may be a feed formulation but administration by needle is still pretty easy.

In the near future we will see more and more pain medication given to cattle. Although it does appease the animal welfare concerns it also makes economic sense.



Inthenearfuturewe willseemoreandmore painmedicationgiven tocattle.

About the author


Roy Lewis practised large-animal veterinary medicine for more than 30 years and now works part time as a technical services veterinarian for Merck Animal Health.



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