Maternal behaviour in sheep (Ovis aries) following administration of opioid agonists

C. J. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: As kappa(κ)-opioids have marked effects on pain threshold in sheep during oestrus, late pregnancy and after birth, a study was undertaken to determine if к-opioids also had other roles during these states. Methods: Opioid agonists (GR89696, DAMAGO) were administered into either the lateral hypothalamus (LH) or amygdala of non-pregnant sheep (n = 5) or pregnant sheep (n = 15) in late pregnancy (n = 5) within 12 h of birth (n = 5) or in the third week after birth (n = 5). Cortisol, behavioural and electrocardiographic responses to an auditory stimulus were assessed with and without drug administration, as was feed consumption and suckling events. Results: In non-pregnant sheep, DAMAGO injected into either the LH or amygdala had little effect on the response to the auditory stimulus but when injected into the LH did decrease food consumption. GR 89696 had no obvious effects. In late pregnancy, cortisol and heart rate responses to the auditory stimulus were significantly reduced compared to the non-pregnant animals irrespective of treatment. This was also the case in the third week after birth. Immediately post-partum cortisol responses were closer to that seen in the non-pregnant animal. In late pregnancy and both post-partum periods, GR 89696 in the LH significantly increased feed consumption while DAMAGO had no significant effects. GR 89696 injected into the amygdala reduced the behavioural response to the auditory stimulus in late pregnancy and both post-partum periods. Conclusion: Changes in sensitivity to opioids occur in both the amygdala and LH with pregnancy and after birth. These may influence maternal behaviours and feed intake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-70
Number of pages4
JournalNew Zealand Veterinary Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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