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That's Gotta Hurt!- NSAIDs

Dehorning, castration, and other painful procedures are performed on cattle, especially on feedlot induction. There are many methods to each procedure and each involves different pain levels and durations. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to block inflammation in cattle during these types of procedures. These types of drugs work similar to steroid drugs to block production of prostaglandin, prostacyclin, and thromboxane. These are hormones the body produces to cause blood vessel dilation or constriction and attract white blood cells to fight infection. Sensitization of pain receptors also occurs when these hormones are produced which is expressed in the central nervous system causing a pyretic response (fever). NSAIDs decrease the sensitization and hormone production, therefore decreasing inflammation, fever, and pain.


There are many different kind of NSAIDs used in cattle depending on the procedure, location, product availability, and preference. The most common NSAID used on our ranch is meloxicam. Meloxicam can come in an injectable form and an oral suspension. The injection has been shown to be successful in breaking the fever but is not labeled for castration or BRD. The oral suspension has double the dose of the injectable but is about half the cost. The major problem with the oral is that needs to be given 1-2 hours prior to castration or dehorning, which involves running cattle through the squeeze twice which is not practical on most ranches. Flunixin is another NSAID used in cattle production. This product comes as an injectable or on transdermal form (pour on) for control of pyrexia (fever) associated with BRD, endotoxemia, and the transdermal is labelled for analgesia in foot rot. The injectable form of Flunixin can only be administered through IV due to infection of the injection site and drug residue. Ketoprofen is an injectable labeled for treatment of pain, fever, and inflammation. The label is very non-specific, however the milk withdrawal period is zero and there is a very short meat withdrawal time in beef cattle.


NSAIDs are now being combined with antibiotics or antiviral medications to provide relief of inflammation and pain, as well as fighting off the infection. Products such as Resflor, which is a combination of Flunixin and Florfenicol, have been created for BRD treatment and fever control. Other products include Zeleris which is the combination of Meloxicam and Florfenicol and Draxxin which is the combination of Tulathromycin and Ketoprofen. All these combinations target the control of fever and treatment of BRD, however Draxxin has the smallest dose volume.


All these products have been tried and tested on different symptoms and illnesses. Each animal may react differently to the same product and you may find that one product works better for you than others. However, one of these products should be used as fevers and BRD can cause decreased feed intake, weight loss, illness, and even mortality. Please talk to your vet about what product is right for your ranch. I have a few studies that show the results of using these different products for anyone who is interested.



All information from Dr. Al Chicoine's presentation and from my notes from the University of Saskatchewan.