Researchers with the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine have suggested a potential pain relief route for piglets by administering medicine through the act of nursing.
The scientific methodology, formally referred to as "transmammary delivery," involves injecting a sow with pain-relieving medicine that is then ingested by her piglets through the milk.
"In the swine industry, piglets regularly undergo painful procedures such as tail docking and castration, which have become an emerging animal welfare concern," said Hans Coetzee, head of the anatomy and physiology department in the Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine. "We hypothesized that transmammary delivery of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) — in this case, firocoxib — would reduce pain associated with processing in piglets.
"Our findings indicated this technique may safely reduce processing-induced stress and enhance production by increasing weaning weights," he added.
Coetzee's team consisted of researchers from Kansas State University's Institute of Computational Comparative Medicine and department of mathematics, Iowa State University and Midwest Veterinary Services Inc. The research was funded by the National Pork Board (grant No. 16-118).
In addition to pain relief benefits for the piglets, Coetzee suggested a potential benefit for the mothers.
"Additional large-scale studies could focus on changes in feed intake, bodyweight and milk composition of sows medicated with firocoxib," Coetzee said. "By doing so, we could determine whether the NSAID improves the welfare of the sows in addition to impacting the welfare of the nursing piglets."
The study -- "Transmammary Delivery of Firocoxib to Piglets Reduces Stress & Improves Average Daily Gain after Castration, Tail Docking & Teeth Clipping" -- was published in the Journal of Animal Science.