Author(s): Taylor AA, Weary DM, Lessard M, Braithwaite L
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Abstract It has long been assumed that neonatal animals are less sensitive than older animals to pain, and this reasoning has been used to recommend that routine surgical procedures be performed at an early age. In this study we tested if vocal and other behavioural responses to castration increase with piglet age. Piglets (n=84) from 14 litters were assigned to one of six treatment groups: castration or sham castration at 3, 10 or 17 days of age. During the procedure castrated piglets produced high-frequency calls (>1000Hz) at more than three times the rate of piglets in the sham-castrate group. The rate of low-frequency (<1000Hz) calls was also higher for piglets in the castrate group. The rate of high-frequency calling was lower for the youngest pigs but there was no relationship between age and the effect of treatment for any of the vocal responses measured (i.e. no age by treatment interaction). During the first 2h after castration, castrated piglets spent more time sitting or standing and less time lying. During the subsequent 22h, castrated piglets spent marginally more time at the udder and less time lying down. Older piglets missed more nursings. However, the effect of castration did not vary with the age of the piglet for any measure. We conclude that while the factors affecting both the shams and the castrates (e.g. distress due to restraint) may vary with age, the pain of castration is not affected by age within the range of ages that we tested.
This article was published in Appl Anim Behav Sci
and referenced in Journal of Anesthesia & Clinical Research