Behavioural assessment of pain in dairy cattle with mastitis
Assessing pain and discomfort experience in cattle is one of the main concerns of farm animal welfare science. Both behavioural and physiological measures have been used as indicators of pain; however, due to impracticability and invasiveness that physiological measures involve, behavioural measures are currently the most used parameter to assess pain in cattle. The scientific assessment of pain has been focused on farm procedures such as dehorning, branding and castration. Nonetheless, research on pain related to diseases is also getting stronger due to the impact on the farm’s economy and cows’ welfare. Mastitis has been classified as one of the most important, frequent and painful diseases in dairy cattle; however pain alleviation is not considered common part of mastitis therapy, unless cows have evident systemic illness. Pain assessment due to mastitis has been done primarily using models of experimental-induced mastitis. Physiological measures such as temperature and heart rate have been used to evaluate the efficacy of different analgesic drugs after inducing mastitis. Behavioural measures based mainly on pain sensitivity and activity behaviours have been used as indicators of pain for mastitis. Although the valuable information provided for the available studies, further research in this area is required. Combining different measures used for pain assessment associated with mastitis but also successful methodologies used to evaluate pain and discomfort in other diseases and farm procedures, it is possible to improve pain assessment in mastitic cows and subsequently improve management and welfare.