Tail docking of pigs is a routine procedure on farms to help control tail-biting behavior; however, docking can cause pain. The objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of local or general anesthesia on the physiology (experiment 1) and behavior (experiment 2) of tail docked pigs. Pigs were allocated to one of six treatment groups: (i) sham docking (CON); (ii) docking using conventional cutting (CUT) with side-cutting pliers; (iii) CUT docking plus local anesthesia injected immediately before docking (LA); (iv) CUT docking plus short-acting local anesthesia applied topically to the tail wound (SHORT); (v) CUT docking plus long-acting anesthesia applied topically to the tail wound (LONG) and (vi) CUT docking while the pig was anesthetized with carbon dioxide gas (CO2). In experiment 1, blood samples were collected from pigs (10 pigs per treatment) before and 30, 60 and 120 min after docking to measure leukocyte counts and percentages and cortisol concentrations. In experiment 2, the above treatments were repeated (10 pigs per treatment); the percentage of stress vocalizations were recorded during the administration of the treatments and behavior was recorded for up to 120 min after docking or handling. All pigs were weighed before and 24 h after docking and wound healing was recorded until weaning. The neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio was greater (P < 0.05) in CUT, LA, SHORT and LONG compared with CON pigs. At 30 min, cortisol concentrations were greater (P < 0.05) in CUT, LA, LONG and CO2 compared with CON pigs. Cortisol concentrations did not differ (P > 0.05) between SHORT and CON pigs 30 min after docking. Cortisol concentrations did not differ (P > 0.05) among pigs given pain relief at the time of docking compared with pigs' docked without pain relief. Body weight change and wound scores did not differ (P > 0.05) among treatments. The percentage of stress vocalizations increased (P < 0.05) in CUT, SHORT and LONG, but not in CON, LA and CO2 pigs in response to docking or handling. The percentage of time pigs spent lying without contact after docking tended to be greater (P = 0.06) in CUT pigs compared with all other docking treatments and CON pigs. In this study, none of the anesthesia treatments tested were effective at significantly changing the physiological or behavioral response to tail docking in pigs.
- animal welfare
- tail docking