Effects of transdermal flunixin meglumine on experimentally induced lameness in adult dairy cattle
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Lameness is a common animal health condition with significant production and welfare implications. The transdermal formulation of flunixin meglumine is the only approved drug for pain control in cattle in the United States. Thirty adult dairy cows were enrolled in a study to determine the effect of transdermal flunixin on cattle with induced lameness. Cows were allocated to 1 of 3 treatment groups, with 10 cows per group: lameness and flunixin (L+F), lameness and placebo (L+P), or sham induction and placebo (S+P). An arthritis-synovitis was induced in the distal interphalangeal joint of the left hind lateral digit, using 20 mg of amphotericin B, 6 h before the application of treatment. Cows enrolled into the sham induction group had 4 mL of isotonic saline injected into the joint. Cows were dosed with transdermal flunixin at 3.33 mg/kg (1 mL/15 kg), or a placebo at 1 mL/15 kg, every 24 h for 3 d. The first treatment of flunixin or placebo was considered the start of the study, identified as time 0 h. Data were collected from all cows for 120 h following the initial treatment application. Outcome measures included plasma cortisol; substance P; visual lameness assessment; mechanical nociception threshold (MNT), presented as difference between left and right feet; infrared thermography (IRT), presented as difference between left and right feet; and gait analysis using a pressure mat. Cortisol concentrations were lower for the L+F group starting at 1.5 h after drug administration. Substance P levels showed no evidence for treatment differences among groups. Differences between the left hind MNT and right hind MNT were detected, with S+P having the lowest difference at -0.04 kilograms-force (kgf; 95% CI: -1.86 to 1.78 kgf), and L+P having the highest at -2.96 kgf (95% CI: 1.55 to 4.36 kgf). The L+F group was intermediate at -2.08 kgf (95% CI: 0.89 to 3.27 kgf). Similarly, when the difference between the maximum temperatures of the coronary band were examined via IRT, the L+P group had the highest difference at 1.64°C (95% CI: 1.02 to 2.26°C), with the L+F and S+P groups measuring 0.57°C (95% CI: 0.06 to 1.08°C) and 0.53°C (95% CI: -0.2 to 1.25°C) respectively. We found no evidence for differences among treatment groups when analyzing force, contact pressure, step impulse, or stride length. Based on differences in MNT, IRT, and cortisol, transdermal flunixin is an effective analgesic agent for induced lameness. Multiple doses of transdermal flunixin may be required to be clinically effective, based on MNT and IRT data. Further investigation of transdermal flunixin and its analgesic effects is warranted in naturally occurring lameness.
author list (cited authors)
Kleinhenz, M. D., Gorden, P. J., Smith, J. S., Schleining, J. A., Kleinhenz, K. E., Juarez, J. R., Rea, D., & Coetzee, J. F.