The impact of prenatal stress on basal nociception and evoked responses to tail-docking and inflammatory challenge in juvenile pigs

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Sandercock, D.A. ; Gibson, I.F. ; Rutherford, K.M.D. ; Donald, R.D. ; Lawrence, A.B. ; Brash, H.M. ; Scott, E.M. ; Nolan, A.M. (2011)

The consequences of tail-docking (at 2–4 days) and prenatal stress (maternal social stress during the 2nd third of pregnancy) on baseline nociceptive thresholds and responses to acute inflammatory challenge were investigated in juvenile pigs in two studies. Nociceptive thresholds were assessed on the tail root and on the hind foot using noxious mechanical and cold stimulation before and after acute inflammatory challenge by intradermal injection of 30 μg capsaicin (study 1) or 3% carrageenan (study 2) into the tail root. Four groups of 8 (study 1, n = 14–16 pigs/treatment) or 5 (study 2, n = 6 pigs/treatment/sex) week-old pigs were exposed to the main factors: maternal stress and treatment (docked vs. intact tails). In study 1, tail docking did not significantly alter thresholds to noxious mechanical stimulation, whilst prenatally stressed pigs had significantly higher baseline thresholds to noxious mechanical stimulation on the tail root and on the hind foot than unstressed pigs, whether tail-docked or intact. Capsaicin injection induced localised mechanical allodynia around the tail root in all treatment groups, but had no effect on noxious plantar mechanical responses; however prenatally stressed offspring exhibited significantly attenuated response thresholds to capsaicin compared to controls. In study 2 tail docking did not alter thresholds to either mechanical or noxious cold stimulation. Baseline response durations to noxious cold stimulation of the tail root were significantly shorter in both sexes of prenatally stressed pigs, whilst male but not female prenatally stressed pigs exhibited significantly higher baseline thresholds to mechanical stimulation than controls, although results in female pigs tended towards significance. Carrageenan injection into the tail root induced localised mechanical and cold allodynia in all treatment groups, effects that were attenuated in prenatally stressed pigs. Collectively, these findings indicate that prenatal stress can induce long-term alterations in nociceptive responses, manifest as a reduced sensitivity to noxious mechanical and cold stimulation and evoked inflammatory allodynia. Neonatal tail-docking does not lead to long-term alterations in nociception in pigs.
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