Veterinary anaesthesia and analgesia

Preliminary studies of chemical immobilization of captive juvenile estuarine (Crocodylus porosus) and Australian freshwater (C. johnstoni) crocodiles with medetomidine and reversal with atipamezole.

PMID 22642399


To establish a safe, reliable and reversible immobilization protocol for captive juvenile crocodiles. Prospective, randomized, clinical study. Thirty male estuarine crocodiles (body mass 1-12.1 kg) and 10 male Australian freshwater crocodiles (body mass 4.1-12.8 kg). An optimized dose of medetomidine (0.5 mg kg(-1)) was administered intramuscularly (IM) into the tail (Group 1; n = 5), pelvic limb (Group 2; n = 5) and thoracic limb (Groups 3 and 4; n = 5 in each group) of estuarine crocodiles weighing 3-12.1 kg. Their heart and respiratory rates and degree of immobilization were monitored every 15 minutes until recovery and daily thereafter for 3 subsequent days. In Group 4 (n = 5), medetomidine was antagonized with an optimized dose of atipamezole (2.5 mg kg(-1)) given IM into the thoracic limb and time to recovery recorded. The effects of increasing doses of medetomidine given IM in the thoracic limb (n = 4) and intravenously (n = 6) were determined in 1-2 kg estuarine crocodiles. Australian freshwater crocodiles (4.1-12.8 kg) were administered medetomidine IM into the thoracic limb in divided doses at 0.5 mg kg(-1) (n = 5) and 0.75 mg kg(-1) (n = 5) and similarly monitored. Immobilization was achieved only in the estuarine crocodiles >3 kg and when medetomidine was administered into the thoracic limb. Immobilization was achieved within 30 minutes and the duration of immobilization lasted approximately 90 minutes. Immobilization in estuarine crocodiles was readily reversed with atipamezole. A dose of 0.75 g kg(-1) was required to immobilize Australian freshwater crocodiles and the onset of immobilization was longer and the duration shorter than seen in the estuarine crocodiles. The heart and respiratory rates of all immobilized animals decreased significantly and arterial blood pressure became undetectable in the animals in which it was measured. Medetomidine administered in the thoracic limb of captive estuarine and Australian freshwater crocodiles, ranging from 3 to 12.8 kg, provides a predictable onset and duration of immobilization sufficient for physical examination, sample collection, short minor procedures and translocation of the animals. Atipamezole administered in the thoracic limb results in complete reversal of the effects of medetomidine in the estuarine crocodile and a rapid return to normal behaviour.

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Atipamezole, ≥98% (HPLC)