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Doctoral thesis2021Open access

Nursing and anaesthesia care of growing pigs

Rydén, Anneli


The overall aim of the present thesis was to improve the welfare of animals in research by refining the perioperative nursing and anaesthesia care of growing pigs in accordance with the 3Rs, replace, reduce and refine.

Forty-six pigs were trained during a 14-day acclimatisation period to accept blood and urine sampling and ultrasound examination. A polymer coated catheter for repeated blood sampling from the jugular vein was assessed. The effects of zolazepam-tiletamine and medetomidine (ZTMe) was compared with midazolam, ketamine and fentanyl (MiKF) regarding the quality of induction and physiological variables in a subsequent total intravenous anaesthesia (TIVA) with MiKF. A combination of zolazepam-tiletamine, dexmedetomidine and butorphanol (ZTDeB) intended for short-term anaesthesia was evaluated and physiological responses and drug plasma concentrations were examined. An artificial intelligence (AI) technology based on image vision was adapted for monitoring of the activity prior to anaesthesia and post-anaesthesia during treatment with transdermal fentanyl or buprenorphine injections. Facial expression was scored and plasma concentrations of the drugs were analysed.

The training enabled blood and urine sampling and ultrasound examination without restraints. It was possible to collect blood from the catheters for up to ten days. ZTMe had better results than MiKF in areas such as shorter induction time, better intubation scoring results and less adjustment and amount of TIVA required for up to six hours of TIVA. ZTDeB provided two hours of anaesthesia with stable physiological variables and spontaneous breathing. The plasma concentration profile of the drugs was in line with the duration of the effect. Measurement of activity in pigs with the AI technique was encouraging. Both opioids, at the doses used, resulted in plasma concentrations above the suggested therapeutic levels. Assessment of facial expressions was time consuming and several factors influenced the result.

In summary, the results showed that nursing interventions, adjustment of anaesthesia techniques and the use of AI technology for the measurement of activity can contribute to stress-free handling and improved animal welfare in growing pigs according to the 3Rs.


3Rs; animal welfare; acclimatisation; training; plasma concentration; opioid; artificial intelligence; facial expression; blood sampling; research animals

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2021, number: 2021:83
ISBN: 978-91-7760-843-1, eISBN: 978-91-7760-844-8
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences