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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Effect of Morphine Administration on Social and Non-Social Play Behaviour in Calves

Sutherland, Mhairi; Worth, Gemma; Cameron, Catherine; Verbeek, Else


The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of morphine on social and non-social play behaviour in calves. Twelve calves experienced four treatments in a cross over 2 x 2 factorial design: Calves received an intravenous injection of morphine or saline 10 min prior to being tested individually or in pairs in an arena for 20 min. Play behaviour was continuously recorded in the arena test. Lying times were recorded in the home pen. Cortisol concentrations were measured before and after testing. In the arena test, calves given morphine tended to perform more social play events than calves given saline, however, morphine administration had no effect on locomotor play. Calves given morphine spent less time lying than calves given saline during the first 4 h after returning to the home pen. Cortisol concentrations were suppressed in calves given morphine. Administration of morphine appeared to increase social play but had no effect on locomotor play in calves. This study highlights the importance of investigating different aspects of play behaviour in animals as some may be more indicative of a positive affective state than others. More studies investigating the effects of morphine on play are needed to confirm the results found in this study.


opioids; play; welfare

Published in

2019, Volume: 9, number: 2, article number: 56
Publisher: MDPI