Buprenorphine, a μ opioid receptor agonist, is expected to be a suitable analgesic drug for use in reptiles. However, to date, dosage recommendations have been based on anecdotal observations. The aim of this study was to provide baseline pharmacokinetic data in red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) targeting a plasma level of 1 ng/ml reported effective for analgesia in humans. Serial blood samples were taken after subcutaneous injection of buprenorphine, and plasma buprenorphine levels were measured by radioimmunoassay. Pharmacokinetic parameters of a lower dose (0.02 mg/kg) injected into the forelimb were compared with a higher dose (0.05 mg/kg) given in the same forelimb as well as a lower dose (0.02 mg/kg) given in the hind limb of the same animals with 2 wk between studies. After administration of 0.05 mg/kg in the front limb, 85% of animals maintained the minimum effective plasma level for 24 hr, while only 43% of animals maintained this level after 0.02 mg/kg. After hind limb injection at 0.02 mg/kg, maximum plasma concentrations and areas under the buprenorphine concentration-time curve were less than 20% and 70%, respectively, of values after forelimb injection, consistent with substantial first pass extraction by the liver. Furthermore, a secondary rise in the buprenorphine level was found after having only a hind limb injection, probably from enterohepatic recirculation of glucuronidated drug. In conclusion, buprenorphine dosages of at least 0.075 mg/kg s.i.d. should be appropriate for evaluation of analgesia efficacy, and front limb administration may be preferable to hind limb administration for optimal drug exposure.
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Vol. 39 • No. 4