The influence of various confounding factors on mechanical nociceptive thresholds in the donkey

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To evaluate a mechanical nociceptive threshold (MNT) testing device in the donkey, and to investigate the influence of potential confounders on MNTs generated.

Study design

Prospective, randomised.


Sixteen castrated male donkeys aged 4–9 years, weighing 105–170 kg.


Mechanical nociceptive thresholds were measured using an actuator with three pins placed on the dorsal aspect of the distal limb, connected to a force meter. The pins (surface area 15 mm2) were extruded onto the limb by pressurising an air-filled syringe, until the MNT force (when foot-lift was observed) or 25 N (cut-off force) was reached. Effect on MNT of presence of a companion donkey, the limb tested, rate of application of force, testing location, level of distraction, ambient temperature and hair cover at the test site was evaluated. Long and short-term repeatability of MNT was assessed. Data were analysed using general linear models and Mann–Whitney U tests, p < 0.05 was considered significant.


Increasing the rate of force application significantly increased the mean ± SD MNT from 9.2 ± 2.0 N when applied at 0.4 N sec−1 to 10.6 ± 2.1 N when applied at 1.2 N sec−1 (p = 0.001). No other factors significantly influenced MNT. Mean MNT remained stable over a 3 week period, however MNTs were significantly (p= 0.006) higher (12.8 ± 3.0 N cf 10.3 ± 1.9 N) after a 12 month interval.

Conclusions and clinical relevance

When designing studies measuring MNT in donkeys, rate of application of force must be standardised. Donkeys' MNTs have good short-term stability suggesting this technique is appropriate for short-term analgesiometry studies; however variability of MNTs over the long-term is greater.

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