REASONS FOR PERFORMING STUDY: To identify pain-related behaviour in working donkeys in order to assist their owners and veterinarians to recognise and manage pain.
OBJECTIVES: To identify general and specific behaviours associated with pain or its relief using a trial with the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug meloxicam (Metacam).
STUDY DESIGN: Observer-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.
METHODS: Forty adult male working donkeys with common clinical abnormalities were randomly assigned to receive either a single loading dose of meloxicam (1.2 mg/kg bwt per os; n = 20) or a placebo (30 mg honey/250 ml water per os; n = 20). Observation of postural and event behaviours was undertaken at 2 pretreatment time points followed by 4 post treatment time points, using scan (instantaneous) and focal sampling.
RESULTS: In comparison to pretreatment baselines, donkeys receiving meloxicam were more alert post treatment than the placebo group. They were observed lying down less frequently (P = 0.007), with their eyes closed less frequently (P = 0.04) and having a high head carriage more frequently (P = 0.02). Dozing behaviour decreased after meloxicam compared with the pretreatment baseline (P = 0.03). Donkeys given meloxicam also showed more interest in their environment, turning to look at environmental stimuli more frequently (P = 0.05) than those in the placebo group post treatment. Neither the meloxicam nor the placebo group showed a significant post treatment improvement in lameness scores.
CONCLUSIONS: Working donkeys receiving meloxicam were more active and alert compared with their pretreatment behaviour, confirming the potential value of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in identifying behaviours indicative of pain in working donkeys. Behavioural assessment of pain in working donkeys in field clinic conditions will enable veterinary staff and owners to identify welfare issues promptly and monitor response to analgesia. The Summary is available in Chinese - see Supporting information.