Evaluating treatments with topical anaesthetic and buccal meloxicam for pain and inflammation caused by amputation dehorning of calves.


To assess the effects of a topical anaesthetic (TA) and buccal meloxicam (BM) on behaviour, maximum wound temperature and wound morphology following amputation dehorning of beef calves, 50 unweaned Hereford calves were randomly allocated to: (1) sham dehorning / control (CON, n = 14); (2) amputation dehorning (D, n = 12); (3) amputation dehorning with pre-operative buccal meloxicam (DBM, n = 12); and (4) amputation dehorning with post-operative topical anaesthetic (DTA, n = 12). Videos of the calves were captured for 3 h following treatment. Each calf was later observed for 5 min every hour and the frequency and duration of specific behaviours displayed during these focal periods was recorded. Infrared and digital photographs of dehorning wounds were collected from all dehorned calves on days 1, 3 and 7 following treatment. Infrared photographs were used to identify the maximum temperature within the wound area. Digital photographs were used to score wounds based on visual signs of inflammation and healing, using a numerical rating scale of 1 to 3, with morphological aspects of inflammation increasing and morphological aspects of healing decreasing with progressive scores. CON calves displayed fewer head shakes than all dehorned calves at 2 and 3 h following treatment (P = 0.025). CON and DTA calves displayed less head turns than DBM calves at 2 h following treatment (P = 0.036). CON calves displayed fewer combined point behaviours than all dehorned calves at 2 h following treatment (P = 0.037). All dehorning wounds had a greater maximum temperature on days 3 and 7 compared to day 1 (P = 0.003). All wound morphology scores decreased from day 1 to day 3 and wound morphology scores of DBM and DTA calves increased from day 3 to day 7 (P = 0.03). Although flystrike may have confounded these observations, no clear effects of TA or BM on behaviour, maximum wound temperature or wound morphology following dehorning of calves were observed. Further research is required to evaluate the analgesic efficacy of these products for amputation dehorning of calves.

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