Carfentanil-Xylazine Anesthesia in the Okapi (Okapia johnstoni): 20 + Years of Experience
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2010
Scott B. Citino, DVM, DACZM; John A. Lukas
White Oak Conservation Center, Yulee, FL, USA


Complications associated with anesthesia are still one of the most significant causes of adult morbidity and mortality in the international captive okapi (Okapia johnstoni) population (Citino, personal observation).5,6 The most common anesthesia-associated problems reported in okapi are regurgitation and aspiration of rumen contents and post-anesthesia gastrointestinal stasis or ileus (Citino, personal observation).6 The most common chemical restraint protocols used to induce recumbency in okapi utilize either an opioid (etorphine, carfentanil) in combination with an α2-adrenergic agonist (xylazine, detomidine) or medetomidine-ketamine.1-6 This abstract reports on anesthesia data collected over 20+ yr on captive okapi at White Oak Conservation Center, Yulee, FL and the Okapi Conservation Project, Epulu, Democratic Republic of Congo.

One hundred thirty successful anesthesias in 42 okapi (22 males:20 females) have been performed without mortality using xylazine and carfentanil in a staged technique. Xylazine is given first by dart or polesyringe at a dose of 0.14±0.03 mg/kg (adult total dose = 30 mg min, 50 mg max) im and is followed in 15–20 min with carfentanil at a dose of 4.62±0.72 μg/kg (adult total dose = 0.9 mg min, 1.8 mg max) im. The better the initial sedation by xylazine, the smoother the induction will be. Azaperone (0.15–20 mg/kg) can be added to xylazine to improve inductions in problem animals. For okapi receiving significant stimuli during anesthesia (e.g., electroejaculation), ketamine (1.0–1.5 mg/kg) can be added to the carfentanil to potentiate the xylazine-carfentanil combination. Xylazine, ketamine, and 5% guaifenesin solution have been used to supplement anesthesia. Anesthesia is reversed with naltrexone and tolazoline, yohimbine, or atipamezole. Renarcotization occurs sporadically.

Literature Cited

1.  Bush, M. 2003. Giraffidae. In Fowler, M.E. and R.E. Miller (eds.): Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, 5th Edition., W.B. Saunders Co., St. Louis, Missouri, 625–633.

2.  Citino, S.B. 1996. Anesthesia of okapi (Okapia johnstoni). In Lukas, J. (ed.): Okapi Metapopulation Workshop. White Oak Conservation Center, Yulee, Florida.

3.  Citino, S.B, and M. Bush. Giraffidae. In West, G., D. Heard, and N. Caulkett (eds.): Zoo Animal and Wildlife Immobilization and Anesthesia. Blackwell Publishing, Ames, Iowa, 595–605.

4.  Mortelmans, J. 1978. Anaesthesia in okapis. Acta Zool Pathol. 71:41–44.

5.  Raphael, B.L. 1999. Okapi medicine and surgery. In Fowler, M.E. and R.E. Miller (eds.): Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, Current Therapy 4, WB Saunders, Philadelphia, 649.

6.  Teare, A. 2000. Okapi ISIS MedARKS Library Disk.


Speaker Information
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Scott B. Citino, DVM, DACZM
White Oak Conservation Center
Yulee, FL, USA

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