Anesthetic Procedures in Exotic Animals


Anesthetic Procedures in Exotic Animals


The number and variety of exotic animals being maintained as pets and for profit are increasing. Anesthesia for nontraditional species is accomplished for the most part by using the same techniques and drugs used in domestic animals. Because exotic species demonstrate idiosyncrasies and widely varying sensitivities to drugs, it is frequently necessary to make modifications. This chapter is an overview of the basic information needed to successfully immobilize exotic animals that are likely to be encountered by general practitioners.*

General Considerations

Preanesthetic considerations

Discussions with owners

Reduce the animal’s stress; exotic animals have high sympathetic drive; excessive stress can induce complications that include myocardial arrhythmias, hypertension, and hyperthermia, which can result in death

Presurgical evaluation and animal selection

1. Physical examination:

2. Laboratory evaluation

a. The volume of blood required for the sample should not exceed 10% of the animal’s blood volume (e.g., the blood volume of a 30 g [body weight] gerbil is 2.3 mL and 10% of this volume is 0.2 mL)

b. Contraindications to anesthesia

(1) A blood transfusion may be needed if packed cell volume is low

(2) Fluids (3 to 5 mL/kg of body weight/hr) should be supplemented during surgery

(3) Amino acid or plasma supplementation may be needed if total protein is less than 3 g/dL; refractometers and colorimetric tests frequently used at diagnostic laboratories for mammalian blood often register falsely low proteins in nonmammalian species; the biuret method is the most accurate in avian species

(4) Administer 5% dextrose or delay anesthesia if the glucose is low

(5) Correct low calcium to greater than 8 mg/dL

(6) Correct low potassium to greater than 3.5 mg/dL

3. Further evaluation

II Preanesthetic fasting

III Maintaining homeothermy

Hypothermia depresses the respiratory control system

Methods of monitoring core body temperature (skin temperature is not reliable)

Heat sources and retaining heat

1. Always monitor heat sources to avoid iatrogenic burns and hyperthermia

2. Water-circulating heating pad

3. Electric coil-type heating pads

4. Incubators

5. Hot water bottles

6. Forced warm air blankets

7. Prevention of heat dissipation

IV Fluids

Perioperative hypovolemia must be prevented to decrease postoperative morbidity and mortality

Preheat to 80° F to 95° F (26° C to 35° C) for animals weighing less than 1 kg and for all ectotherms

Administration (route) (Table 26-1)

Fluid rates

Fluid rate control

Fluid choice (see Chapter 16)

Blood transfusion (see Chapter 16)

Blood substitutes


If necessary, administer antibiotics to achieve adequate serum levels before induction of anesthesia

Select appropriate preanesthetic medication

Birds (Table 26-2)

1. Anticholinergics are not indicated because they make respiratory secretions more viscous

2. Preanesthetics are rarely indicated if the bird is small enough to be manually restrained

3. Because their long legs are susceptible to trauma, ratites, storks, and long-legged wading birds weighing more than 15 kg may benefit from sedation before capture and/or restraint


Amphibians: preanesthetics are not routinely used

Fish: preanesthetics are not routinely used

Rodents, guinea pigs, and rabbits

Mustelids (ferrets)


Pigs (see Chapter 24)

Camelids (See Chapter 25)

VI Monitoring anesthesia



1. Electrocardiogram modifications

2. Doppler placement

3. Pulse oximeter

4. Heart rate monitors must be suited for high heart rates and be able to read up to 350 beats/min in rabbits and more than 600 beats/min in mice

5. Respiratory monitors must be sensitive enough to detect small tidal volumes

Avian Anesthesia (less than 15 kg)

Attaining surgical anesthesia

II Anesthetic procedure recommendations (Tables 26-2 and 26-3)

Preanesthetic agents can be used if needed

Inhalant anesthesia is preferred over injectable anesthesia

Oxygen flow rates

Use a nonrebreathing system for all birds weighing less than 7 kg

Endotracheal intubation is recommended for all birds

1. Birds weighing less than 100 g should be intubated for procedures longer than 30 minutes or for procedures involving the coelomic cavity; small face masks are commercially available or can be fashioned from 35- to 60-mL syringe cases and rubber gloves

2. The glottis is easily visualized at the base of the tongue

Stay updated, free articles. Join our Telegram channel

Sep 6, 2016 | Posted by in SUGERY, ORTHOPEDICS & ANESTHESIA | Comments Off on Anesthetic Procedures in Exotic Animals

Full access? Get Clinical Tree

Get Clinical Tree app for offline access