Research from the University of British Columbia indicates that the use of an anti-inflammatory drug, ketoprofen, may help alleviate some of the pain associated with hot-iron dehorning.

In the study, 20 Holstein calves received either a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug before dehorning, as well as two and seven hours after the procedure, or were assigned to a control group which did not receive an anti-inflammatory before or after dehorning. All calves received a sedative and a local anaesthetic before dehorning.

After dehorning, calves treated with the anti-inflammatory showed little head shaking or ear flicking. However, control animals showed much higher frequencies of these pain-related behaviors, notes Dan Weary, associate professor of agricultural sciences at the University of British Columbia, who presented these findings at the joint annual meeting of the American Dairy Science Association and the American Society of Animal Science held in July. Also, calves treated with the anti-inflammatory gained more weight — 2.2 pounds more than control calves — during the 24-hour period after dehorning, indicating that the anti-inflammatory helped to reduce pain after hot-iron dehorning.

The use of the anti-inflammatory drug, ketoprofen, represents extra-label drug use which is permitted only under the supervision of your veterinarian.