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This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 90 No. 7, p. 2211-2221
    Received: May 15, 2011
    Accepted: Jan 6, 2012
    Published: January 20, 2015

    2 Corresponding author(s):


The physiological and behavioral response of pigs castrated with and without anesthesia or analgesia1

  1. M. A. Sutherland 2,
  2. B. L. Davis*,
  3. T. A. Brooks* and
  4. J. F. Coetzee
  1. *Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock 79409
    †Present address: AgResearch Ltd., Ruakura Research Centre, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
    ‡Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan 66506-5601


Surgical castration is a common management practice performed on male pigs to prevent the occurrence of boar taint. Surgical castration is known to cause physiological and behavioral changes in pigs indicative of pain-induced distress; however, it is commonly performed without pain relief. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) anesthesia and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to alleviate the pain caused by castration. At 3 d of age, male pigs were either control handled (CON), castrated without pain relief (CAS), given an NSAID and then immediately castrated (CAS+NSAID), anesthetized with CO2 and then castrated (CAS+CO2), or anesthetized with CO2 and given an NSAID at the time of castration (CAS+BOTH). Blood samples were collected before castration, and at 30, 60, 120, and 180 min, 24 h, and 3 d after castration or handling for analysis of cortisol, C-Reactive protein (CRP), and substance-P (SP) concentrations. This study was then repeated using the same treatment groups, and the behavioral response to castration and handling were measured using a 1-min scan sampling procedure. The percentage of stress vocalizations was recorded during the administration of all treatments. Anesthesia and analgesia did not effectively reduce (P > 0.05) the cortisol response to surgical castration. Overall, CRP concentrations were greater (P < 0.05) in CAS+CO2 pigs as compared with CON pigs. Sixty minutes after castration or handling, SP concentrations were greater (P < 0.08) in pigs given CO2 anesthesia (CO2, CAS+CO2, and CAS+BOTH) than CON, CAS, and CAS+NSAID pigs. Pigs castrated without pain relief spent more (P < 0.001) time lying without contact than all other treatments during the first 30 min after castration, but thereafter CAS+CO2 pigs spent more (P < 0.001) time lying without contact than other treatments. During the first 30 min after the treatments were applied, CAS+CO2 pigs spent more (P < 0.01) time displaying pain-like behaviors than CON, CAS, CAS+NSAID, and CAS+BOTH pigs. The percentage of stress vocalizations was greater (P < 0.05) in CAS and CAS+NSAID pigs than all other treatments. Neither CO2 anesthesia nor a NSAID, given separately or combined, markedly reduced the pain-induced distress caused by castration in pigs. More research is needed to evaluate practical methods of on-farm pain relief for pigs.

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Copyright © 2012. American Society of Animal Science