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Dr Jo Murrell

Dr Jo Murrell

Dr Jo Murrell
B.V.Sc., Ph.D.(Bristol), Dip.ECVA, M.R.C.V.S.

Reader in Veterinary Anaesthesia

Area of research

Mechanisms of pain perception

Dolberry Building,
Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU
(See a map)


I joined the University of Bristol in 2007 as a Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Anaesthesia. I am a European specialist in Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia, primarily based at the School of Clinical Veterinary Sciences, as well as having strong collaborative links with the School of Physiology and Pharmacology (with Professors Lumb, Apps and Dr. Koutsikou). I am an experienced and enthusiastic anaesthetist, with a passion for ensuring optimal pain management in animals after surgery.

My research portfolio falls into three areas that are all united by the common theme of analgesia and pain management. I lead the Anaesthesia and Analgesia Research Group which encompasses clinical and academic anaesthetists, veterinary nurses, 3 post docs and 1 technician. The Group interacts and collaborates closely with other clinical disciplines (e.g. surgery, radiology, medicine) and academics within Welfare and Behaviour and Infection and Immunity to run projects that span across different specialist area.

 Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia


Clinical Research: Our group carries out internationally recognized analgesia research investigating the efficacy of different analgesic protocols or the effects of analgesic drugs on animal well being (e.g. appetite). I study a range of species, with a focus on cats, dogs and horses. In particular I have a strong track record in field studies of drug efficacy conducted as part of drug registration and carried out under Good Clinical Practice. These studies have contributed to the Marketing Authorisation of buprenorphine in horses, methadone in cats and dogs and fentanyl in dogs. The availability of these drugs combined with the robust scientific data supporting drug dose and dose interval generated by field studies has significantly contributed to improved peri-operative analgesia in animals.

Clinical research

I am currently engaged on three clinical research projects that investigate different aspects of pain in cats and dogs.

1)    A BBSRC funded project investigating the sensory expression of pain in dogs with spontaneous osteoarthritis, with the hope that this will lead to better pain management in dogs with this condition. This project is in collaboration with researchers at the University of Nottingham (Drs. Kelly and Harris), Professor Duncan Lascelles (NCSU, USA) and Professors Mendl and Knowles and Dr. Helen Whay (University of Bristol).

2)    A PetPlan funded project investigating whether cats with diabetes mellitus experience altered sensory processing, as seen in people with diabetes. This is in collaboration with Ms Angie Hibbert and Dr. Holmes (University of Bristol)).

3)    A project to investigate the effect of pain resulting from chronic ear disease on affective state in dogs funded by The Dogs Trust.. This project is in collaboration with a specialist in veterinary dermatology within LVS (Mrs Natalie Barnard) and Dr. Blackwell within Animal Welfare and Behaviour.

Pain Research within the context of farm animal welfare: Pain is severely detrimental to animal welfare and identifying and alleviating pain in farm animals is essential to improve the welfare of farmed anima ls. In collaboration with the Animal Welfare and Behaviour Group (particularly Professor Christine Nicol, Mr. Lindsay Wilkins, Professor Mike Mendl and Dr. Helen Whay) I have provided specialist expertise in the pain field to address research questions such as "Do tail docking and castration lead to chronic pain in sheep?" and is "lameness is associated with pain in meat chickens?". Understanding whether farming systems or husbandry interventions cause pain is the first step in alleviating pain and improve welfare.

Pain in the context of farm animal welfare


Fundamental pain research: I am an in vivo eletrophysiologist with a long standing interest in mechanisms of pain perception and analgesia, using EEG based techniques to understand cortical processing of pain. More recently this has evolved to include study of the role of the cerebellum in control of nociception with Professors Lumb and Apps. 

 Fundamental pain research

Key recent outputs from my research team:

  • The UVB and Heat Rekindling model in the rat was shown to cause central sensitization and upregulation of pain pathways, further validating it as a translational model of inflammatory pain.
  • We showed that Mechanical Evoked Potentials (the cortical response to mechanical stimuli) generated in people was poorly correlated with pain self report in some experimental circumstances.
  • We provided robust evidence that laying hens with keel bone fractures experience pain.
  • We generated data that led to the Marketing Authorisation of buprenorphine in horses, methadone in dogs and cats and fentanyl in dogs, increasing the repertoire of licensed analgesic drugs in animals for management of acute pain.


Recent sources of funding include: BBSRC, Novartis Animal Health, DECHRA, PetPlan Charitable Trust, The Dog’s Trust.


Further information about Dr Jo Murrell can be found here.

Activities / Findings

  • Validating models of inflammatory pain using neurophysiological markers of nociception
  • Use of mechanical evoked potentials to study central sensitisation
  • Development and validation of the UVb pain model in rats as a translational model of inflammatory pain
  • Do broilers and laying hens experience pain when they are lame or have keel bone fractures?
  • Evaluation of methadone and fentanyl for analgesia in cats?
  • Development of novel methods to quantify chronic pain caused by spontaneous osteoarthritis in dogs


Veterinary anaesthesia lectures to third year veterinary undergraduate students, particularly focussing on pain and analgesia. Contribution to the pain module of the 3rd year Physiology undergraduate degree. Applied pain lectures to students on the Animal Behaviour and Welfare degree programme and Meat Science MSc.


  • electroencephalogram
  • visceral and somatic pain
  • evoked potentials
  • mechanical
  • UVb
  • dog
  • chicken
  • sheep

Processes and functions

  • Pain


  • Placement of dural and cortical EEG electrodes
  • EEG recording
  • generation of evoked potentials
  • UVB model
  • quantitative sensory testing
  • Behavioural measurement techniques

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

Networks & contacts

  • Professor Bridget Lumb
  • Dr. Polly Taylor
  • Professor Mike Mendl
  • Professor Christine Nicol
  • Professor Mick Bailey

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