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This graph shows the changes in plasma cortisol seen after scoop dehorning of 3 to 4 month old calves with and without local anaesthetic and NSAID treatment.

Sutherland et al 2002b

This graph shows the changes in plasma cortisol seen after scoop dehorning of 3 to 4 month old calves with and without local anaesthetic and NSAID treatment

DH - dehorn no analgesic

DHLA - dehorn with local anaesthetic

DHLK - dehorn with local anaesthetic and NSAID

sham - handled control calves

Use of both a NSAID and local anaesthetic is required to remove most of the cortisol response, and by inference the pain, resulting from scoop dehorning of calves. Cauterisation of the wound or use of a hot dehorning iron has a similar effect as the NSAID on the cortisol response to dehorning (Petrie et al 1996; Sylvester et al 1998).

Scoop dehorning produces peak plasma cortisol values (135nmol/l above pre-treatment values) within 30 min of treatment. Raised values between 60 and 20 nmol/l occur for up to 7 hours after dehorning.  Local anaesthetic treatment before dehorning abolishes the immediate behavioural response to dehorning (reduced struggling) but only delays the cortisol response (peak 130 nmol/l above pre-treatment values) until 5 to 8 hours after dehorning.  If an anti-inflammatory drug (ketoprofen) is also given before dehorning, at about the same time as the local anaesthetic, then the delayed marked cortisol peak response seen with local anaesthetic use is reduced to a maximum of 40 nmol/l. The cortisol response has returned to pre-treatment values by 12 hours after all treatments.

Using a heated dehorning iron or cauterising the wound after scoop dehorning with local anaesthetic, has the same effect on the plasma cortisol response as using an anti-inflammatory drug (Sylvester et al 1998).

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                                            Revised: 20-10-08