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J Dairy Sci. 2008 Aug;91(8):3010-4. doi: 10.3168/jds.2007-0968.

Analgesics improve the gait of lame dairy cattle.

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  • 1Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Food and Land Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Pain associated with injuries of the hoof and surrounding tissues is an important cause of lameness. The objective was to detect the attributes of impaired gait that are associated with pain. In 3 separate experiments, lactating Holstein cows (n = 20; n = 21; n = 27) diagnosed with varying degrees of gait impairment were injected i.m. (Exp. 1 and 2) or i.v. (Exp. 3) with the analgesic ketoprofen at 0, 0.3, 1.5, or 3.0 mg/kg of BW. Gait was evaluated subjectively using a numerical rating system (NRS; varying from 1 to 5) and 6 specific gait attributes (back arch, tracking up, joint flexion, asymmetric steps, head bob, and reluctance to bear weight). Each experiment was divided into 3 phases each lasting 3 d: before treatment, after treatment, and during treatment with daily injections of ketoprofen. The NRS improved by 0.25 +/- 0.05 with the highest dose of ketoprofen. Although none of the specific gait attributes showed a consistent response to treatment, there was an interaction between dose and experiment for asymmetric steps and reluctance to bear weight; in Exp. 1, but not Exp. 2 and 3, cow steps were more symmetrical (improving by 7.16 +/- 1.02), and cows distributed their weight more evenly (improving by 5.84 +/- 1.13) at the highest doses of ketoprofen. These results indicated that the NRS was more sensitive than the specific gait attributes in assessing differences in gait associated with pain. The results showed that ketoprofen has only a modest effect on gait, indicating either that this drug has little effect on pain due to lameness or that much variation in NRS was due to factors other than pain.

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