Oral administration of a 12% sucrose solution did not decrease behavioural indicators of distress in piglets undergoing tail docking, teeth clipping and ear notching
Sucrose has been shown to attenuate the behavioural response to painful procedures in human infants undergoing circumcision or blood collection via heelstick. Sucrose has also been found to have a behaviour-modifying effect in neonatal rats exposed to a hot plate. The effect was abolished in neonatal rats by injection of the opioid antagonist naltrexone, suggesting that it was mediated by endogenous opioids. In this experiment, the behaviour of 571 newborn Large White × Landrace hybrid piglets in a specific-pathogen-free piggery of the University of Queensland was recorded during and after the routine management practices of tail docking, ear notching and teeth clipping. Piglets were randomly assigned to receive 1.0 ml of a 12% sucrose solution (treatment group) or a placebo (1.0 ml of air) administered via syringe in the mouth, 60 s before commencement of one of the management procedures. Behaviours were recorded at the time of the procedure, and then 2 min after completion of the procedure. Piglets that received the sucrose solution did not behave significantly differently from piglets receiving the placebo. Regardless of whether sucrose or placebo was administered, piglets undergoing the routine management procedures showed significantly greater behavioural responses than piglets undergoing no procedure. It was concluded that under commercial conditions, a 12% sucrose solution administered 1 min prior to surgery was not effective in decreasing the behavioural indicators of distress in piglets undergoing routine management procedures. Further research into methods of minimising distress caused to piglets by these procedures is recommended.
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