The effect of early post-natal castration on subsequent electroencephalogram response to tail docking in lambs : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Veterinary Science at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of early age painful stimulation on the cortical response to subsequent painful stimulation in lambs. Using the electroencephalogram (EEG), the current study measured the effect of early age castration at one day of age on the cortical pain response to tail docking at 23 days of age in lambs.
Lambs were randomly assigned to rubber ring castration (n=12) or handling (n=12) at one day of age. At 23 days of age lambs were tail docked under a minimal plane of anaesthesia maintained using halothane in oxygen (PEHal = 1%). EEG data was recorded for two minutes pre-docking, and for eight minutes following tail docking. EEG median frequency, spectral edge frequency and total power were derived using fast Fourier transform. Data were analysed for group (castrated versus handled), time and group by time effects using mixed model analysis, as well as for the effect of group on pre-docking EEG.
Castrated lambs showed an increased cortical response to pain, demonstrated by a greater increase in EEG median frequency (Mixed model analysis; F = 5.45, P = 0.03) and greater reduction in total power (F = 5.15, P = 0.03) in response to subsequent tail docking.
These findings indicate that early age noxious stimulation results in an increased cortical response to subsequent noxious stimulation at approximately three weeks of age in lambs. The greater cortical response in the castrated lambs would likely correspond to an increased perception of pain, and therefore the potential for a greater degree of suffering and welfare compromise in response to subsequent painful injuries, for example lambing, injury and footrot.
There was also a tendency toward a higher pre-docking total power of the EEG in the castrated lambs when compared with handled lambs (Satterthwaite’s t-test; T = 1.86, P =
0.08). The higher pre-docking total power may indicate a greater background activity in the nociceptive centres of the castrated lambs. However, the significance of this finding is not clear at this stage, and further work is necessary to better define the basis and clinical importance of this observation.