Standing sedation was provided for 14 clinical procedures in three African elephants (Loxodonta africana) managed by combined protected and modified-protected contact and trained through operant conditioning. An initial hand-injection of detomidine hydrochloride and butorphanol tartrate at a ratio of 1:1 on a μg:μg basis was administered intramuscularly, with a dosage range of 50–70 mg (12.9–19.7 μg/kg) for each drug. The initial injection resulted in adequate sedation for initiation and completion of eight procedures, whereas supplemental doses were required for the remaining procedures. The dosage range for the supplemental injections of each drug was 4.0–7.3 μg/kg. Initial effect was noted within 3.0–25 min (mean = 11.6 min, SD ± 5.9 min), with maximal effect occurring at 25–30 min for those procedures not requiring supplementation. In all but one procedure, this effect was maintained until the end of the procedure, which ranged from 47 to 98 min (mean = 74.7 min, SD ± 18.8 min). No cardiac or respiratory depression was appreciated. Recovery after administration of reversal agents was rapid and complete, ranging from 2 to 20 min (mean = 9.0 min, SD ± 7.0 min). On the basis of the authors' experience, recommended dosage ranges for reversal agents would be intravenous yohimbine (73.4–98.5 μg/kg), intravenous naltrexone (48.9–98.5 μg/kg), and intramuscular naltrexone (73.4–98.5 μg/kg). Approximately one-third to one-half of the total naltrexone dose should be administered intravenously. Mild adverse side effects limited to the gastrointestinal tract were observed in association with five procedures including abdominal distention with or without transient anorexia. Administration of reversal agents, encouraging exercise and water consumption, and administration of flunixin meglumine were helpful in the resolution of signs. In addition to gastrointestinal signs, slight ataxia was observed before initiation of surgical stimulation during one procedure in which 19.7 μg/kg of each drug was administered. On the basis of the procedures that did not require supplementation to initiate treatment and taking into consideration the potential for ataxia at higher doses, a starting dosage range of 14.7–16.2 μg/kg of both detomidine and butorphanol in a ratio of 1:1 on a μg:μg basis administered i.m. simultaneously is recommended.
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Vol. 36 • No. 2