REASONS FOR PERFORMING STUDY: Donkeys are believed to be less demonstrative of pain than ponies. Research into comparative sensory processing between these species is required to elucidate these behavioural differences.
OBJECTIVES: To compare changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded during castration between donkeys and ponies.
STUDY DESIGN: Prospective clinical study.
METHODS: Six ponies and 6 donkeys were castrated under halothane anaesthesia after acepromazine premedication and thiopental anaesthetic induction. Markers were inserted into the EEG recording at the time of skin incision (skin) and emasculation (emasc) for both testicles (T1 and T2) during a closed castration. Raw EEG data were analysed and the EEG variables median frequency (F50 ), total power (Ptot ) and spectral edge frequency (F95 ) derived using standard techniques. Baseline values of F50 , Ptot and F95 for each animal were used to calculate the percentage change from baseline at T1skin, T2skin, T1emasc and T2emasc.
RESULTS: Decreased F50 values relative to baseline were observed in 4 ponies and 2 donkeys across all castration time points. In the remaining animals, the F50 value increased compared with baseline. Both donkey and pony groups showed an overall decrease in Ptot values compared with baseline at T1skin, but the magnitude of the decrease was significantly less (P = 0.004) in ponies than in donkeys. Donkeys demonstrated an overall greater increase (P = 0.05) in F95 values at T1skin relative to baseline compared with ponies.
CONCLUSIONS: Electroencephalographic responses to the noxious stimulus of castration were noted in both donkeys and ponies. Donkeys demonstrated a greater change in Ptot in response to castration than ponies; thus, donkeys appear to demonstrate a cerebral cortical response to a noxious stimulus that is similar to or greater than that in ponies, suggesting that their subtle behavioural expression of pain is not due to a difference in cortical processing of noxious sensory stimuli.