Tail docking of neonatal pigs is widely used as a measure to reduce the incidence of tail biting, a complex management problem in the pig industry. Concerns exist over the long term consequences of tail docking for possible tail stump pain sensitivity due to the development of traumatic neuromas in injured peripheral nerves. Tail stumps were obtained post mortem from four female pigs at each of 1, 4, 8 and 16 weeks following tail amputation (approximately 2/3rd removed) by a gas-heated docking iron on post natal day 3. Tissues were processed routinely for histopathological examination. Non-neural inflammatory and reparative epidermal and dermal changes associated with tissue thickening and healing were observed 1 to 4 months after docking. Mild neutrophilic inflammation was present in some cases, although this and other degenerative and non-neural reparative changes are not likely to have caused pain. Traumatic neuroma and neuromatous tissue development was not observed 1 week after tail docking, but was evident 1 month after tail docking. Over time there was marked nerve sheath and axonal proliferation leading to the formation of neuromata, which were either localized and circumscribed or comprised of multiple axons dispersed within granulation tissue. Four months after tail resection, neuroma formation was still incomplete, with possible implications for sensitivity of the tail stump.
- Tail docking