Efficacy and Safety of Medetomidine-Azaperone-Alfaxalone Combination in Captive White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2015
Kylie Pon1, DVM; Nigel Caulkett1, DVM, DACVAA; Murray Woodbury2, DVM, MSc
1Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada; 2Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatoon, SK, Canada


Alfaxalone is a neurosteroid drug that interacts with GABAA receptors in the brain. It has the potential to improve the efficacy of existing alpha-2-adrenergic agonist-based wildlife anesthesia combinations but there are few studies of its use in wild mammals.1,2 The objective of this study was to determine the efficacy and safety of a medetomidine-azaperone-alfaxalone (MAA) drug combination used to anesthetize captive white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Eight captive, adult, white-tailed deer were hand-injected intramuscularly with 0.15 mg/kg medetomidine, 0.2 mg/kg azaperone, and 0.5 mg/kg alfaxalone. Once anesthetized, deer were maintained in lateral recumbency and monitored for 60 minutes. Heart and respiratory rate; rectal temperature; and direct systolic, mean, and diastolic blood pressures were recorded every five minutes. Blood gas analysis was done on arterial blood every 15 minutes. The level of sedation and quality of recovery from anesthesia after reversal with 0.75 mg/kg of atipamezole were scored. Analysis of variance and descriptive statistics (significance of p<0.05) was used to analyze data. Induction (time to lateral recumbency, 7.1±2.4 minutes [mean ± SD]) and recovery times (time to standing, 9.1±3.1 minutes) were comparable to current medetomidine-based combinations in white-tailed deer.3-5 Cardiopulmonary effects observed at 15-minutes post-injection of immobilizing drugs were hypoxemia (PaO2 54±9 mm Hg), hypoventilation (PaCO2 55±3 mm Hg), and mixed acid-base disturbances (pH 7.22±0.04). Blood pressure was in normotensive range (mean BP 99±8 mm Hg) and recovery was consistently smooth with minimal struggling or ataxia. MAA produced a satisfactory and safe level of deep sedation for handling and minor procedures in captive white-tailed deer.


The authors thank Dr. Adam Hering and Ms. Mary von der Porten for assistance with animal handling and data collection. This project was funded by the University of Calgary Clinical Research Fund and a final-year student investigative medicine grant.

Literature Cited

1.  Bakker J, Uilenreef JJ, Pelt ER, Brok HP, Remarque EJ, Langermans JA. Comparison of three different sedative-anaesthetic protocols (ketamine, ketamine-medetomidine and alfaxalone) in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). BMC Vet Res. 2013;9(113):1–13.

2.  Bouts T, Karunaratna D, Berry K, Dodds J, Gasthuys F, Routh A, Taylor P. Evaluation of medetomidine-alfaxalone and medetomidine-ketamine in semi-free-ranging Bennett’s wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus). J Zoo Wildl Med. 2011;42(4):617–622.

3.  Caulkett NA, Cribb PH, Haigh JC. Comparative cardiopulmonary effects of carfentanil-xylazine and medetomidine-ketamine used for immobilization of mule deer and mule deer/white-tailed deer hybrids. Can J Vet Res. 2000;64:64–68.

4.  Miller BF, Osborn DA, Lance WR, Howze MB, Warren RJ, Miller KV. Butorphanol-azaperone-medetomidine for immobilization of captive white-tailed deer. J Wildl Dis. 2009;45(2):457–467.

5.  Muller LI, Osborn DA, Doherty T, Keel MK, Miller BF, Warren RJ, Miller KV. Optimal medetomidine dose when combined with ketamine and tiletamine-zolazepam to immobilize white-tailed deer. J Wildl Dis. 2012;48(2):477– 482.


Speaker Information
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Kylie Pon, DVM
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
University of Calgary
Calgary, AB, Canada

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