Randomized controlled trial comparison of analgesic drugs for control of pain associated with induced lameness in lactating dairy cattle. Academic Article uri icon


  • Both the economic loss and welfare implications of lameness affect the dairy industry. Currently no analgesic drugs are approved to alleviate lameness-associated pain in lactating dairy cattle in the United States. In this randomized controlled trial, 48 lactating Holsteins were enrolled to evaluate the effect of oral meloxicam and i.v. flunixin meglumine on induced lameness. Cows were allocated to 1 of 4 treatment groups (n = 12 per group): lameness and flunixin meglumine (LAME + FLU); lameness and meloxicam (LAME + MEL); lameness and placebo (LAME + PLBO); or sham induction and placebo (SHAM + PLBO). Six hours before treatment, arthritis-synovitis was induced in the distal interphalangeal joint with 20 mg of amphotericin B, whereas SHAM cows were given an intra-articular injection of an equal volume (4 mL) of isotonic saline. Cows in LAME + FLU received 2.2 mg/kg flunixin meglumine i.v. and whey protein placebo orally; LAME + MEL were administered 1 mg/kg meloxicam orally and 2 mL/45 kg sterile saline placebo i.v.; LAME + PLBO were administered 2 mL/45 kg sterile saline placebo i.v. and whey protein placebo orally; and SHAM + PLBO received 2 mL/45 kg sterile saline placebo i.v. and whey protein placebo orally. The initial treatment of MEL, FLU, or PLBO was identified as time 0 h and followed by a second dose 24 h later with data collection for 120 h. The methods used to assess analgesic efficacy were electronic pressure mat, visual lameness assessment, visual analog score, plasma cortisol concentration, plasma substance P concentration, mechanical nociception threshold, and infrared thermography imaging. Linear mixed effect modeling was the primary method of statistical analysis. Visual lameness scoring indicated a lower proportion of the FLU + LAME group was lame at the T2 h and T8 h time points in comparison to the positive controls, whereas MEL therapy resulted in a lower proportion of lame cows at the T8 h time point. Cortisol area under the effect curve was lower following FLU therapy compared with LAME + PBLO for the 0-2 h (LSM difference = 35.1 ngh/mL, 95% CI: 6.8, 63.3 ngh/mL), 2-8 h (LSM difference = 120.6 ngh/mL, 95% CI: 77.2, 164.0 ngh/mL), and 0-24 h (LSM difference = 226.0 ngh/mL, 95% CI: 103.3, 348.8 ngh/mL) time intervals. Following MEL therapy, cortisol area under the effect curve was lower than LAME + PLBO for both the 2 to 8 h (LSM difference = 93.6 ngh/mL, 95% CI: 50.2, 137.0 ngh/mL) and 0 to 24 h time intervals (LSM difference = 187.6 ngh/mL, 95% CI: 64.9, 310.4 ngh/mL). Analysis of data from other assessment modalities failed to discern biologically relevant differences between treatment groups. We conclude that meaningful differences were evident for visual lameness assessment and cortisol from MEL and FLU treatment versus the positive control. Further clinical research is needed toward development of a model that will create reproducible events that are more pronounced in severity and duration of lameness which can be validated as a substitute for naturally occurring lameness cases.

published proceedings

  • J Dairy Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Warner, R., Kleinhenz, M. D., Ydstie, J. A., Schleining, J. A., Wulf, L. W., Coetzee, J. F., & Gorden, P. J.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Warner, R||Kleinhenz, MD||Ydstie, JA||Schleining, JA||Wulf, LW||Coetzee, JF||Gorden, PJ

publication date

  • February 2021