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Nov 28, 2011

The use of detomidine and butorphanol for a wide range of captive hoofstock species


The use of detomidine and butorphanol for standing sedation in a wide range of captive hoofstock species

Detomidine and butorphanol are sedatives that are widely available in the UK and Europe. A combination of these drugs has been extensively used in domestic animals, particularly in horses.

Its use in zoo animals has also mainly been limited to equids. We describe the use of this combination, by intramuscular remote-injection, for standing sedation in a wide range of zoo hoofstock. In perissodactylids we have used this combination in Przewalski horses, onagers, zebras and white and greater one-horned rhinoceros.

In artiodactylids it has been used in giraffe, bongos, European bison, alpacas, Bactrian camels and yak. In addition it was used to facilitate safe intravenous access in a young Asiatic elephant with circulatory collapse due to Endotheliotropic Elephant Herpesvirus (EEHV) infection.  Using this combination we have safely performed a number of minor procedures including general examination, blood-sampling, tuberculin testing, minor surgery and rectal examination. In addition we have used it to facilitate a controlled walking-sedation of a yak for loading into a transport box. 

Prior to use of this combination many of these procedures would have required general anaesthesia. This can pose considerable risks for large zoo species including hypoxia, hypercapnoea, myopathy and hyperthermia. In ruminants there is the added risk of bloat and possible aspiration of rumen contents into the airways, causing aspiration pneumonia.

In our hands we have found this combination provides a reliable and safe alternative in the species described. Further data collection in these and in other species is still needed in order to consolidate our findings.


ZSL - Whipsnade Zoo

WINNER of BIAZA Award 2011 for Significant advances in zoo and wildlife medicine



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