Information regarding analgesics in pinnipeds is limited. This study aimed to establish the pharmacokinetic parameters of a single subcutaneous dose of sustained release buprenorphine (Buprenorphine SR®) in juvenile northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) with regard to its potential to provide long-lasting analgesia that requires infrequent dosing. Seals (n = 26) were administered a single dose of sustained release buprenorphine at 0.12 mg/kg s.c. Blood samples were collected from the extradural intervertebral vein at 0 hr and at three or four of the following time points: 0.5, 1, 2, 6, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 96, 120, and 144 hr. Seals were examined daily for systemic and local adverse reactions. Plasma was analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem–mass spectrometry for buprenorphine and norbuprenorphine concentrations. A noncompartmental analysis for pharmacokinetic parameters was calculated using standard methods and equations. An average maximum concentration of 1.21 ng/ml (0.3–2.9 ng/ml) was detected 12 hr postadministration. Concentrations were quantifiable up to 144 hr postadministration but were below those expected to provide analgesia in some other species. No systemic adverse effects were noted in healthy seals receiving sustained release buprenorphine. Cellulitis or abscesses at the injection site were observed in 6/26 (23%) seals between 24 and 168 hr postadministration. Adverse local effects suggest that this drug should be used with caution in northern elephant seals.
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