Behavioural assessment of pain in commercial turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) with foot pad dermatitis
Two experiments were conducted to investigate the differences in susceptibility to foot pad dermatitis (FPD) of two medium-heavy lines of turkeys, and whether FPD is painful, by detailed analysis of behaviour in birds with and without analgesic treatment (betamethasone).
Turkeys housed on dry litter in the first experiment generally had more frequent bouts of different behaviours that were of shorter duration than birds on wet litter. T-patterns (behavioural sequences) were more frequent, varied and complex on dry than on wet litter. Betamethasone-injected birds of line B, but not breed A, had shorter resting and longer standing durations on wet litter than saline-injected birds.
In the second experiment, turkeys on wet litter given saline stood less and rested more than all other treatment groups, suggesting that they experienced pain that was alleviated in birds receiving betamethasone. Turkeys on dry litter had more frequent, varied and complex patterns of behaviour than turkeys on wet litter and birds kept on intermediate litter wetness. Betamethasone provision increased pattern variety regardless of litter treatment.
Turkeys with low FPD scores transferred to wet litter and given saline injections had a longer total duration of resting and shorter duration of standing compared to betamethasone-treated birds. Low FPD birds transferred to wet litter had a similar number of patterns and total pattern occurrence as high FPD birds transferred to dry litter. Betamethasone increased pattern variety and frequency compared to saline injections whereas overall pattern complexity was similar.
It was concluded that wet litter affects the behaviour of turkey poults independently of FPD and that betamethasone may also change the behaviour of turkeys. There was some evidence from analgesic treatment and T-pattern analyses that FPD was painful. However, there was no evidence of differences in susceptibility to FPD of the two commercial hybrids.