Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) are a popular display animal in zoological institutions and are also raised for commercial purposes of meat and oil. Anesthesia in these species is challenging, with previously published combinations requiring intravenous administration or showing extended recovery times.5 Thiafentanil is a potent opioid that has been used in combination with medetomidine in a variety of species.1-4,6 Both can be effectively antagonized by the use of naltrexone and atipamezole, respectively.1,6
Thirteen adult emus were successfully anesthetized for routine physical examinations and minor surgical procedures using 0.167±0.045 mg/kg thiafentanil (ZooPharm Inc., Laramie, WY; 10 mg/ml) and 0.095±0.015 mg/kg medetomidine (ZooPharm Inc.; 20 mg/ml) IM via remote injection. Venous blood gas analysis was performed prior to administration of IV 0.205±0.03 mg/kg atipamezole (Pfizer Animal Health, NY; 5 mg/ml) before maintenance on 2–3% isoflurane (Vet One, Meridian, ID) with two L/m oxygen flow. Heart and respiratory rate were monitored throughout anesthesia while electrocardiogram readings, venous blood samples for biochemistry, and full blood counts were taken. The birds were weighed and recovered in a crate following IV administration of 8.36±2.25 mg/kg naltrexone (ZooPharm Inc.; 50 mg/ml) for antagonism of thiafentanil. During recovery, 5 mg IM midazolam (Baxter Healthcare Corporation, Deerfield, IL; 5 mg/ml) was provided for post-procedural sedation.
Due to smooth and quick induction and recovery times (6.8 and 3.2 minutes, respectively), the combination of thiafentanil and medetomidine is recommended by the authors for the safe and effective anesthesia of adult emus.
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2. Citino SB, Bush M, Grobler D, Lance W. Anaesthesia of roan antelope (Hippotragus equines) with a combination of A3080, medetomidine, and ketamine. J S Afr Vet Assoc. 2001;72:29–32.
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4. Grobler D, Bush M, Jessup D, Lance W. Anaesthesia of gemsbok (Oryx gazella) with a combination of A3080, medetomidine, and ketamine. J S Afr Vet Assoc. 2001;72:81–83.
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6. Smith KM, Powell DM, James SB, Calle PP, Moore RP, Zurawaka HS, et al. Anesthesia of male axis deer (Axis axis): evaluation of thiafentanil, medetomidine, and ketamine versus medetomidine and ketamine. J Zoo Wild Med. 2006;37(4):513–517.