Evaluating Approaches to Measuring Ocular Pain in Bovine Calves with Corneal Scarification and Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis–Associated Corneal Ulcerations

O'Connor, Annette
Dewell, Reneé
Millman, Suzanne
Gould, Stacie
Wang, Chong
Tofflemire, Kyle
Whitley, R. David
Parsons, Rebecca
Lowe, Eric
Liu, F.
Wang, Chong
O'Connor, Annette
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Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine

Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis (IBK) is a common ocular disease in cattle, associated with a 6.8 to 13.6 kg decrease in weaning weight. Antibiotic therapy is available but it is unclear if pain mitigation as an adjunct therapy would reduce the weight loss associated with IBK. Before assessing the impact of pain mitigation therapies, it is first necessary to validate approaches to qualifying ocular pain. The objective of this study was to evaluate approaches to qualifying ocular pain in bovine calves (Bos taurus) with IBK. Our a priori assumption was that scarification or corneal ulcerations consistent with IBK are painful compared to normal eyes. To quantify this difference in pain, we assessed 4 tools: pressure algometry-mechanical nociceptive threshold (PA-MNT), corneal touch thresholds (CTT) obtained with the use of a Cochet-Bonnet aesthesiometer, and assessment for the presence of blepharospasm and photophobia as metrics for pain. Using a 1-eye randomized controlled challenge trial, 31 calves with healthy eyes were randomly allocated to treatment groups, and then a left or right eye was randomly assigned for corneal scarification and inoculation with Moraxella bovoculi or Moraxella bovis. A repeated measures analysis of variance was used for PA-MNT, with significance set at P < 0.05. A log (base 10) transformation was used to stabilize the variance, and Tukey's t tests were used to test differences between assessment days for each landmark. Calves had statistically significantly lower PA-MNT scores (which indicates more pain) the day after scarification relative to baseline measurements (4 d before scarification). For example, at 1 landmark the median PA-MNT (kg/force) prescarification was 4.82 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 3.92-5.93) and 3.43 (95% CI: 2.79-4.22) postscarification. These data suggest PA-MNT may be a tool for quantifying ocular pain in calves. No differences (P < 0.1) in PA-MNT scores between scarified and not-scarified eyes were detected for any landmark on any day. This result suggests that the pain response occurs over the entire face, not just the affected eye. Corneal ulcerations consistent with IBK were not associated with statistically significant differences in PA-MNT or CTT at eye or calf levels. Not surprisingly, scarified eyes were more likely to exhibit blepharospasm and photophobia compared to healthy eyes. Due to blepharospasm, the use of the Cochet-Bonnet to evaluate corneal sensitivity by CTT was of limited value.


This article is from Journal of Animal Science 72 (2014): 1161, doi:10.2527/jas.2013-7264. Posted with permission.