Avian Analgesia: Current Research and Clinical Applications
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012

Michelle G. Hawkins, VMD, DABVP (Avian); Joanne Paul-Murphy DVM, DACZM

Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA


It is difficult to define and recognize when birds feel pain, and it can be even more challenging to objectively determine whether a pain medication is effective in the avian patient. To determine the efficacy of an analgesic in any species, it is important to determine the pharmacokinetic (PK) and pharmacodynamic (PD) properties of the drug in that species. Integrating PK and PD data can also provide a basis for selecting clinically relevant dosing schedules for subsequent evaluation in disease models and clinical trials. PK studies of analgesic drugs are often insufficient to determine appropriate doses and dosing frequencies as plasma concentrations do not always correlate with delivery of analgesia.6,7

Anesthetic sparing studies, inflammatory models to evaluate repeatable behaviors or quantifiable weight bearing, and evaluating specific responses to a noxious stimulus can provide PD techniques for objective evaluation.5,8-12 Experimental PD models have been developed in chickens and parrots, but these models may not extrapolate to pain behaviors relevant to clinical pain. Therefore, the doses and dosing frequencies recommended in the published reports should always be critically evaluated case-by-case when clinically applied. The goals of this presentation are to discuss the current literature pertaining to studies in avian analgesia, with an emphasis on clinical applications.

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Literature Cited

1.  Baert K, De Backer P. Comparative pharmacokinetics of three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in five bird species. Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol 2003;134:25–33.

2.  Black PA, Cox SK, Macek M, et al. Pharmacokinetics of tramadol hydrochloride and its metabolite O-desmethyltramadol in peafowl (Pavo cristatus). J Zoo Wildl Med 2010;41:671–676.

3.  Cole GA, Paul-Murphy J, Krugner-Higby L, et al. Analgesic effects of intramuscular administration of meloxicam in Hispaniolan parrots (Amazona ventralis) with experimentally induced arthritis. Am J Vet Res 2009;70:1471–1476.

4.  Guzman DS, Flammer K, Paul-Murphy JR, et al. Pharmacokinetics of butorphanol after intravenous, intramuscular, and oral administration in Hispaniolan Amazon parrots (Amazona ventralis). J Avian Med Surg 2011;25:185–191.

5.  Hocking PM, Robertson GW, Gentle MJ. Effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on pain-related behaviour in a model of articular pain in the domestic fowl. Res Vet Sci 2005;78:69–75.

6.  Keller D, Sanchez-Migallon Guzman D, Kukanich B, et al. Pharmacokinetics of nalbuphine hydrochloride in Hispaniolan Amazon parrots (Amazona ventralis). Am J Vet Res 2011; 72:741–745.

7.  Naidoo V, Wolter K, Cromarty AD, et al. The pharmacokinetics of meloxicam in vultures. J Vet Pharmacol Ther 2008;31:128–134.

8.  Paul-Murphy J, Brunson DB, Miletic V. Analgesic effects of butorphanol and buprenorphine in conscious African grey parrots ( Psittacus erithacus erithacus and Psittacus erithacus timneh ). Am J Vet Res 1999;60 1218–1221.

9.  Paul-Murphy JR, Krugner-Higby LA, Tourdot RL, et al. Evaluation of liposome-encapsulated butorphanol tartrate for alleviation of experimentally induced arthritic pain in green-cheeked conures (Pyrrhura molinae). Am J Vet Res 2009;70:1211–1219.

10.  Paul-Murphy JR, Sladky KK, Krugner-Higby LA, et al. Analgesic effects of carprofen and liposome-encapsulated butorphanol tartrate in Hispaniolan parrots (Amazona ventralis) with experimentally induced arthritis. Am J Vet Res 2009;70:1201–1210.

11.  Pavez JC, Hawkins MG, Pascoe PJ, et al. Effect of fentanyl target-controlled infusions on isoflurane minimum anaesthetic concentration and cardiovascular function in red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). Vet Anaesth Analg 2011;38:344–351.

12.  Sanchez-Migallon Guzman D, Kukanich B, Keuler N, et al. Antinociceptive effects of nalbuphine hydrochloride in Hispaniolan Amazon parrots (Amazona ventralis). Am J Ver Res 2011;72:736–40.

13.  Sladky KK, Krugner-Higby L, Meek-Walker E, et al. Serum concentrations and analgesic effects of liposome-encapsulated and standard butorphanol tartrate in parrots. Am J Vet Res 2006;67:775–781.

14.  Souza MJ, Martin-Jimenez T, Jones MP, et al. Pharmacokinetics of intravenous and oral tramadol in the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). J Avian Med Surg 2009;23:247–252.

15.  Souza MJ, Sanchez-Migallon GD, Paul-Murphy J, et al. Tramadol in Hispaniolan Amazon parrots (Amazona ventralis). Proceedings of the Association of Avian Veterinarians 2010;293–294.

16.  Souza MJ, Martin-Jimenez T, Jones MP, et al. Pharmacokinetics of oral tramadol in red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). J Vet Pharmacol Ther 2011;34:86–88.


Speaker Information
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Michelle G. Hawkins, VMD, DABVP (Avian)
Department of Medicine and Epidemiology
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California-Davis
Davis, CA, USA

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