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Behavioural Evaluation of Analgesic Efficacy for Pain Mitigation in Lame Sows

18 March 2015

Based on the study of pig behaviour, Iowa State researchers report that meloxicam appeared to mitigate pain sensitivity in sows, while flumixin was no different from the untreated controls.

Lameness in breeding swine has a large negative economic impact and is a welfare concern, according to A.K. Johnson and colleagues at Iowa State University.

In a paper in the journal, Animal Welfare, they explain that pain-related behaviour, such as postural changes, may be used to evaluate the presence and severity of pain in animals.

The objective of their work was to determine the effects of flunixin meglumine (FM) and meloxicam (M) on postural changes in lame sows.

Lameness was induced in 24 mature sows (Sus scrofa) using a chemical synovitis model.

Three treatments were compared:

  • FM: 2.2mg per kg; n=24, intramuscular (IM)
  • M: 1.0mg per kg; n=24, by mouth (PO) and
  • sterile saline: equivalent volume to FM; n=24 (IM), administered approximately 28 and 52 hours after lameness induction.

Behavioural data were collected in the home pen during 12-hour periods and quantified using 15-minute scan sampling on the day prior to (–24 h; Day –1) through +168 hours post lameness induction.

Frequency of behaviour was analysed by day using generalised linear mixed model methods.

The frequency of standing postures significantly decreased and lying postures increased 24 to 72 hours post lameness induction relative to baseline day.

All postures returned to baseline frequencies by +168 hours.

Meloxicam-treated sows demonstrated lower frequencies of lying postures +48 and +72 hours after lameness induction compared to saline-treated sows.

Flunixin-treated sows did not differ in lying behaviour compared to saline-treated sows.

No differences were noted in standing or sitting postures between treatments.

Johnson and colleagues concluded their results suggest that meloxicam mitigates pain sensitivity as demonstrated by higher frequency of standing and lower frequency of lying compared to saline-treated sows.


Pairis-Garcia M.D., A.K. Johnson, K.J. Stalder, C.A. Abell, L.A. Karriker, J.F. Coetzee and S.T. Millman. 2015. Behavioural evaluation of analgesic efficacy for pain mitigation in lame
sows. Animal Welfare. 24: 93-99.

March 2015

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