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Nicola Kells

Doctor of Philosophy, (Veterinary Science)
Study Completed: 2017
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
Acute nociception in neonatal pigs undergoing tail docking: Influence of docking method and age, evaluation of pain mitigation strategies, and assessment of the potential for longer-term pain

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Tail docking of pigs is routine on commercial farms, to prevent injuries and infection associated with tail biting. Ms Kells used electroencephalograph analysis to compare brain responses indicative of acute pain between pigs docked using different methods, explore post-natal development of pain responses, and evaluate different analgesic strategies. She found that tail docking using hot cautery was less acutely painful than using cold clippers and that pigs aged one week or less had significantly smaller pain responses than those aged greater than one week. Using local anaesthetic cream effectively abolished acute pain responses. Histological examination of tail tissues from mature pigs revealed that neuromas were common in the stumps of pigs docked using both methods. Neuromas are associated with long-term changes in pain sensitivity, therefore docking using either method has the potential to cause longer-term pain. Her findings may be used to inform farm practice guidelines and animal welfare policy.

Associate Professor Ngaio Beausoleil
Dr Mhairi Sutherland
Professor Craig Johnson

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