Ratite anesthetic events are often dangerous because these birds use their powerful legs and clawed feet as a defense, and physical restraint can result in self-trauma or injury to handlers. Although various combinations of opioids, α-2 adrenergic agonists, and dissociative agents have been employed in ratites, few effective chemical immobilization protocols have been documented for rheas (Rhea spp.). An intramuscular, remote-delivered combination of thiafentanil (0.30 ± 0.08 mg/kg), dexmedetomidine (7.31 ± 2.72 μg/kg), and tiletamine-zolazepam (5.09 ± 2.31 mg/kg) was utilized in eight adult (four male, four female) greater rheas (Rhea americana). Smooth inductions were observed. During clinical procedures, birds were intubated and maintained on isoflurane gas, and atipamezole was administered to antagonize the dexmedetomidine. At recovery, naltrexone was administered to antagonize the thiafentanil, and midazolam was administered to smooth crate recoveries until release. This low-volume, high-potency, reversible drug combination demonstrated safe inductions and smooth recoveries and proved to be a reliable anesthetic regimen for greater rheas.
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