Sheil, M., Polkinghorne, A. 2020. Optimal methods of documenting analgesic efficacy in neonatal piglets undergoing castration. Animals 10(9), 1450.
Analgesic products for piglet castration are critically needed. This requires extensive animal experimentation such as to meet regulatory-required proof of efficacy. At present, there are no validated methods of assessing pain in neonatal piglets. This poses challenges for investigators to optimize trial design and to meet ethical obligations to minimize the number of animals needed. Pain in neonatal piglets may be subtle, transient, and/or variably expressed and, in the absence of validated methods, investigators must rely on using a range of biochemical, physiological and behavioural variables, many of which appear to have very low (or unknown) sensitivity or specificity for documenting pain, or pain-relieving effects. A previous systematic review of this subject was hampered by the high degree of variability in the literature base both in terms of methods used to assess pain and pain mitigation, as well as in outcomes reported. In this setting we provide a narrative review to assist in determining the optimal methods currently available to detect piglet pain during castration and methods to mitigate castration-induced pain. In overview, the optimal outcome variables identified are nociceptive motor and vocal response scores during castration and quantitative sensory-threshold response testing and pain-associated behaviour scores following castration.