August 12, 2019

Interpretive Summary: Using firocoxib for stress reduction

Interpretive Summary: Transmammary delivery of firocoxib to piglets reduces stress and improves average daily gain after castration, tail docking, and teeth clipping

By Anne Zinn

Recently published research in the July 2019 edition of the Journal of Animal Science outlines the potentially positive use of firocoxib for stress reduction when processing piglets. Research teams at Iowa State University and Kansas State University have concluded that the maternal delivery of firocoxib to suckling pigs before tail docking and castration may safely reduce processing-induced stress and enhance production by increasing weaning weights.

Each year, approximately 133 million piglets in the United States undergo painful processing procedures, such as tail docking, castration, and teeth clipping; emerging consumer concern about the animal welfare implications has resulted in the need for investigation of methods to alleviate the distress associated with these practices. Currently, in the United States, no drugs are labeled by the FDA to mitigate pain in swing, which means the development of new pain mitigation strategies would be beneficial for the industry. Firocoxib is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) with FDA approval in the United States for control of pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis in horses and dogs. In the present study, the research team hypothesized that transmammary delivery of firocoxib, from the lactating sow to the nursing piglets would achieve safe and effective analgesic drug concentrations in suckling offspring that underwent processing procedures. Specifically, the study aimed to describe the pharmacokinetics and transmammary delivery of firocoxib to piglets after intramuscular (IM) administration to sows, investigate the effects of transmammary-delivered firocoxib on the stress response and performance of piglets after castration, tail docking, and teeth clipping; and assess the safety and firocoxib tissue residue concentrations in both sows and piglets at weaning.

The results of this study suggest that a single injection of firocoxib administered to sows resulted in successful transmammary delivery of analgesia to nursing piglets prior to processing. Data also supports the hypothesis that firocoxib is a suitable analgesic for single dose administration in swine resulting in reduced labor costs and stress associated with frequent injections and suggests that firocoxib could be expected to have a greater tendency to distribute into the mammary gland and milk compared with other NSAIDs that demonstrate a smaller volume of distribution. In addition, this study advances the understanding of transmammary delivery of analgesic compounds to manage pain in the offspring by demonstrating that this can be accomplished with a single injection using a dose volume that is attainable in a swine production environment and suggests that IM administration of firocoxib to sows at 7 ± 1 h before performing piglet processing procedures resulted in successful transmammary drug delivery to the nursing piglets.

This is the first report examining the pharmacokinetics and effectiveness of firocoxib in swine and is a promising step towards developing effective, safe, and practical analgesic protocols for use in piglets.

The full paper and discussion of results can be accessed here.