Alfaxalone is an injectable neuroactive steroid anesthetic that is becoming more widely used as a sedative in a wide range of animals. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of this drug for sedation during handling and noninvasive medical procedures in black-cheeked lovebirds (Agapornis nigrigenis). Based on a pilot study that showed that 5 mg/kg alfaxalone was inadequate, and that 20 mg/kg resulted in respiratory arrest in 1 bird, the effects of 12.6 ± 0.9 mg/kg alfaxalone administered subcutaneously was investigated in 9 birds. Despite minor movements and twitching, it was possible to handle all birds and to perform positioning for a ventrodorsal radiograph. A loss of reaction to noxious stimuli was not achieved during sedation. Times from injection to initial effect (mean ± SD) was 93 ± 48 seconds; to recumbency, 209 ± 70 seconds; to first handling for positioning the bird in lateral recumbency, 251 ± 68 seconds; to initial righting effort, 55 ± 8 minutes; and to perching for a minimum of 20 seconds, 76 ± 7 minutes. Median respiration rates between 5 to 45 minutes were 36 to 40 breaths/min; apnea was not noted in any bird. Birds received 0.5 L of oxygen/min via face mask. Oxygen saturation (SpO2) and pulse rate were measured via pulse oximetry in 8 birds continuously from 10 to 30 minutes, SpO2 values remained above 90%. During sedation, mean pulse rate decreased significantly over time (P = .007; 10 minutes = 409 ± 81 beats/min; 30 minutes = 324 ± 25 beats/min). The majority of birds had rough inductions and recoveries, which could have been minimized if birds had been placed in a more confined space. In summary, 12.6 mg/kg alfaxalone provided nearly 1 hour of stable, nonanalgesic sedation appropriate for noninvasive procedures in black-cheeked lovebirds.
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