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Conditions When Pain Relief Should Be Used

12 February 2018

Some examples of conditions when pain relief should be used are:


Lameness is a serious welfare issue in sheep and cattle and pain relief be considered part of the treatment regime. A NSAID given along with an antibiotic injection(if appropriate) will reduce inflammation, speed up recovery time and improve productivity.


Mastitis is a painful condition which shows in the reluctance of affected animals to move, reduced appetite and change in the animals gait to avoid pressure on the affected gland. NSAID drugs can be used to reduce pain and increase the likelihood of the udder to return to full function following a bout of mastitis. Steroid anti-inflammatories  may also be used in some cases of mastitis.


The level of pain experienced by animals with respiratory disease is often overlooked. Pain medication in the form of NSAIDS will reduce the amount of damage to lung tissue as well as encourage appetite.


For difficult lambings and calving administration of an epidural prior to manipulation of the calf/lambs is recommended.  Following any difficult calving/lambing  where trauma to the reproductive tract has occurred the animal is likely to benefit from administration of a NSAID drug. Straining is recognised as a common sign of pain following injury to the genital or urinary tract.

Some procedures for which pain relief is required include:


Local anaesthesia is required when disbudding calves using a disbudding iron. The cornual nerve passes over the orbital ridge midway between the outer edge of the eye and the horn bud. When correctly applied, a local anaesthetic nerve block will cause drooping of the upper eyelid and should provide complete pain relief during the procedure. This procedure should only be attempted following training as accidental injection in to the nearby artery can be fatal. Local anaesthesia will wear off after a short time and additional pain relief for disbudding procedures in the form of NSAIDs

Replacement of cervical/uterine prolapse:

Use of an epidural (spinal) block can greatly reduce the pain associated with these conditions in cattle and sheep. They also can eliminate the straining which can make replacing the prolapsed more difficult as well as desensitising the skin around the vulva for stitching. Epidurals should only be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon. Use of NSAIDS should be considered to reduce the discomfort and straining sometime seen following replacement of the prolapsed cervix/uterus.


Use of pain relief in both the form of local anaesthesia and NSAIDS has been shown to reduce pain behaviours and speed recovery in calves and lambs undergoing surgical or non-surgical (burdizzo/elastrator ring) castration .Consideration should be given to providing appropriate pain relief in all animals undergoing castration. Consideration should be given to leaving male animals uncastrated if the management allows thereby avoiding the painful procedure altogether.

There are many occasions when greater consideration given to pain relief is likely to benefit the animal and aid a return to full health. A protocol for pain relief should be discussed with your veterinary surgeon and written in to the flock/herd health plan to ensure that painful conditions are dealt with quickly and appropriately.

Katy Hewitson,

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