Castration of piglets under CO2-gas anaesthesia

M.A. Gerritzen, M. Kluivers, H.G.M. Reimert, V.A. Hindle, E. Lambooij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


It has become common practice in pig fattening production systems to castrate young boar piglets without the use of anaesthesia. In this study, we examined whether or not CO2 gas is capable of inducing an acceptable anaesthetic state during which castration can be performed. The first step was to identify the most promising CO2/O2 mixture. Based on the results from this first experiment, a mixture of 70% CO2 + 30% O2 was chosen for further investigation as a potential anaesthetic during the castration of young piglets. Thereby, it was established whether the duration and depth of anaesthesia were acceptable for castration where the animal has to be insensible and unconscious. Physiological effects were assessed based on electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements, blood gas values and behavioural responses. During the induction phase, the only typical behaviour the piglets exhibited when exposed to the 70/30 gas mixture was heavy breathing. All piglets (n = 25) lost consciousness after approximately 30 s according to the EEG. Heart rate decreased slowly during the induction phase, a serious drop occurred when piglets lost their posture. Immediately after this drop, the heart rate neared zero or showed a very irregular pattern. Shortly after loss of posture, most animals showed a few convulsions. None of the animals showed any reaction to castration in behaviour and/or on the EEG and ECG. On average, the piglets recovered within 59 s, i.e. EEG returned to its pre-induction pattern and piglets were able to regain a standing position. After 120 s, heart rate returned to pre-induction levels. In order to explore the usage range of CO2 concentration, 24 piglets were exposed to 60% CO2 + 20% O2 + 20% N2 for up to 30 s after loss of consciousness (as registered on EEG), and castrated after removal from the chamber. Sixteen of the 24 animals showed a reaction to the castration on the EEG. To establish the maximum time piglets survive in 70% CO2 + 30% O2, five piglets were placed in this mixture for 3 min. Two of them died. After that, four piglets were placed in this mixture for 2 min after unconsciousness, one died after 2 min. It was concluded from this study that it is possible to anaesthetise piglets with a mixture of 70% CO2 + 30% O2, but that there are limits to its safety in terms of CO2 concentration and duration of exposure. Before implementation for practical use, further research is essential to assess the limits of gas concentration and exposure times
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1666-1673
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • carbon-dioxide
  • inhalation anesthesia
  • behavioral-responses
  • newborn piglets
  • young-pigs
  • pain
  • co2
  • euthanasia
  • rats
  • stimulation


Dive into the research topics of 'Castration of piglets under CO2-gas anaesthesia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this