There is an increasing need to develop field immobilization techniques that allow researchers to handle safely swift foxes (Vulpes velox) with minimal risk of stress or injury. We immobilized captive swift foxes to determine the safety and effectiveness of ketamine hydrochloride and xylazine hydrochloride at different dosages. We attempted to determine appropriate dosages to immobilize swift foxes for an adequate field-handling period based on three anesthesia intervals (induction period, immobilization period, and recovery period) and physiologic responses (rectal temperature, respiration rate, and heart rate). Between October 1998–July 1999, we conducted four trials, evaluating three different dosage ratios of ketamine and xylazine (2.27:1.2, 5.68:1.2, and 11.4:1.2 mg/kg ketamine:mg/kg xylazine, respectively), followed by a fourth trial with a higher dosage at the median ratio (11.4 mg/kg ketamine:2.4 mg/kg xylazine). We found little difference in induction and recovery periods among trials 1–3, but immobilization time increased with increasing dosage (P<0.08). Both the immobilization period and recovery period increased in trial 4 compared with trials 1–3 (P≤0.03). There was a high variation in responses of individual foxes across trials, making it difficult to identify an appropriate dosage for field handling. Heart rate and respiration rates were depressed but all physiologic measures remained within normal parameters established for domestic canids. We recommend a dosage ratio of 10 mg/kg ketamine to 1 mg/kg xylazine to immobilize swift foxes for field handling.
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Vol. 38 • No. 4