By Dr Ben Weir
Meloxicam is a Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID) which reduces pain, inflammation and fever. If you’ve ever had an Ibuprofen tablet when you’re sore, you should know what an NSAID is and more importantly, what it does. Meloxicam is one of the most common drugs that we use in veterinary medicine for managing inflammation and reducing pain in our patients. To get a bit technical, NSAIDs work by inhibiting the inflammatory cascade initiated by the painful procedure, thereby reducing the amount of pain stimulus sent from the affected area to the brain.
Pain can be classified into immediate (fast) pain and chronic (slow) pain. During routine animal husbandry procedures there may be immediate pain associated with the procedure, as well as chronic pain associated with any injury and the healing process. As most of us have experienced at the dentist, the injection they give when doing a painful procedure (that makes you talk funny and not be able to feel your lips) is the same as the local anaesthetic that we use in veterinary medicine. However as it wears off, the sensation of pain returns. As a person, this is when we reach for an Ibuprofen (NSAID) tablet which then controls the pain that we experience. This is the same when we have painful procedures in the veterinary profession- we need to use a drug which controls the more chronic pain levels once the immediate pain relief (local anaesthetic) wears off.
The benefit for producers using pain relief during routine husbandry procedures is not only for their own peace of mind, but also in meeting consumer expectations and protecting the product they market. It may sound a bit cliché but stock that are not in pain are happy stock, and happy stock are productive stock. With animal welfare being an increasing concern in the eyes of the consumer, these additional measures to alleviate pain help to protect the reputation of the entire farming industry.
There are many routine farming practices which can benefit from using additional pain relief measure, such as during lamb marking and dehorning/castrating calves.
Meloxicam is also a useful product when lamb marking. Lots of our farmers have started using NumOcaine with the Numnuts device when castrating lambs, which is a device which safely delivers a shot of local anaesthetic to the neck of the scrotum as well as applying a ring to the testicles.The local anaesthetic works well transiently to control the immediate sensation of pain however this only lasts for 20-40 minutes, so after this time the patient will require additional pain relief. Meloxicam is the product for this- It starts working within 15 minutes and lasts up to 48-72 hours.
Studies have shown that lambs injected with Meloxicam after marking compared with ones that weren’t, showed a marked improvement in the immediate period post marking. The study noted less numbers of lambs sitting down, increased number of lambs back to their mothers, and fewer stragglers left in the yards. The increased number of lambs back with their mothers is particularly important as mismothering following marking can lead to costly financial losses. The study mentioned some cases where farmers who lost up to 10% of lambs between marking and weaning reduced those losses to just 1-2% through the introduction of pain relief at marking. More studies have conclusively shown that providing pain relief at marking had a significant impact on lamb weight in the weeks post marking. The real impact is the positive benefits in lamb strength and survival in the period immediately post marking.