Health & Management / Ruminants Pain Management / Techniques and protocols OVERVIEW:
Pain Prevention for Teat Surgery in Ruminants:

Introduction and General Information

Various congenital problems and acquired lesions of teats are treated surgically. (J234.11.w3)
Published Guidelines linked in Wildpro
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Reasons for the procedure

  • Teat surgery is performed due to (J234.11.w3):
    • Presence of a supernumerary teat;
    • Presence of a "web" (conjoined) teat;
    • Obstruction at the annular ring;
    • Fibrosis in the gland cistern;
    • Tight teat sphincter causing a "hard milker";
    • Teat laceration;
    • Teat fistula;
    • Presence of a teat "spider".


  • Surgery is required for teat lacerations which have penetrated the teat mucosa. (B356.15.w15)
    • If such lacerations are not sutured there may be interference with normal teat function and there is a risk of development of teat fistulae or acute mastitis. (B356.15.w15)
Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Arguments against use of the procedure

  • Suturing is generally not required for teat lacerations which have not penetrated the teat mucosa; topical medication and bandaging are usually sufficient to allow healing by secondary intention in such cases. (B356.15.w15)
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Signs/Evidence of pain associated with the procedure

  • It is generally recognised that teat surgery is painful and that successful surgery requires adequate analgesia as well as adequate restraint. (J234.11.w3)
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Suggested methods of pain prevention

Adequate analgesia and restraint are essential for teat surgery since the operation must be carried out meticulously. (B356.15.w15)

Correct application of methods:

  • If supernumerary teats are to be removed by a non-veterinarian then the person should be suitably trained and competent at carrying out the procedure. (D154)

Local anaesthesia:

Regional anaesthesia:

  • Perineal nerve block may be used for surgery on the caudal teats and the escutcheon of the udder. (B342.16.w16, J234.12.w2)
  • Epidural anaesthesia may be used as an alternative to local analgesia for teat surgery in cows. (B356.15.w15)
  • Either lumbar paravertebral anaesthesia (blocking L1, L2, L3) or segmental lumbar epidural anaesthesia may be used in the standing cow, although use of either technique may result in recumbency. (B342.16.w16, J234.12.w2)

Xylazine sedation and analgesia:

  • This may be used without additional analgesia for very minor procedures. (B342.16.w16)
    • Use of xylazine late in gestation may be contraindicated. (B342.16.w16)

General anaesthesia:

  • This is occasionally indicated for teat surgery. (J234.11.w3)
Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Reasons why adequate pain relief is not always provided

Reasons why adequate pain prevention may not be provided are described in detail in: Reasons for Failure to Provide Pain Relief. In brief, these include:
  • Attitudes towards pain in animals;
  • Tradition;
  • Failure to recognise pain;
  • Failure to recognise the importance of the adverse effects of pain;
  • Concern about removing possible protective effects of pain [this concern is generally excessive];
  • Concern that providing pain relief may itself stress the animal and have a negative impact on it;
  • Concern that treating pain may interfere with diagnosis;
  • Lack of information about analgesics;
  • Concern about toxicity and side-effects of analgesics;
  • Concerns about the safety and legislative controls associated with some analgesics such as opiates;
  • Economic and practical considerations.
Specific published reasons for failure to provide pain relief for teat surgery are indicated below.
  • Adequate analgesia and restraint are generally provided for teat surgery since they are essential to allow the operation to be carried out meticulously. (B356.15.w15)
Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Authors & Referees

Authors Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referee A.B.Forbes BVM&S.,CBiol.,MIBiol.,DipEVPC.,MRCVS (V.w66)

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