Ketamine Anaesthesia in Waterfowl (Disease Investigation & Control - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Control / Treatment & Care / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords See also:
Description N.B. Information given in this page is to be used in conjunction with the relevant sections on Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint within "Treatment and/or Control".

Before using any anaesthetic agent or combination of agents the manufacturer's data sheet on the agent or agents concerned should be consulted, taking particular note of any contra-indications and operator warnings.

Ketamine is a dissociative anaesthetic, producing a cataleptoid state with increased muscle tone, adrenergic cardiovascular responses and in which near-normal swallowing reflexes are maintained. Eyes may remain open. Now rarely used as the sole anaesthetic agent, but more frequently used in association with a sedative agent.

  • Intramuscular injection (see: Intramuscular Injection of Birds). (B14).
  • Dose rate reported of 18mg/kg for waterfowl, with further 9mg/kg five minutes later (B11.9.w20).
  • Incoordination, opisthotonus and relaxation in 1-3 minutes (B14).
  • Anaesthesia in approximately 3-5 minutes (B14).
  • Anaesthesia lasts approximately 30-35 minutes, but is dose-dependant (B11.9.w20, B14).

Examples of use in waterfowl:

Mallard: 28 sedations at 23.8mg/kg intramuscular, Muscovy duck: 30 sedations at 20mgkg intramuscular, Nene: 6 sedations at 20mg/kg intramuscular. Incoordination, opisthotonus, then relaxation. Maximum effect by 3 minutes, maintained for about 35 minutes +/- 5 minutes. Recovery approx. 60 minutes, anaesthesia adequate for minor procedures. Eyes remained open, palpebral reflex present, muscle relaxation poor. Lack of co-ordination, excitement, head shaking, wing flapping noted during recovery - rarely smooth. Require wrapping in appropriate cloth/towel/sack,and should be left in a dark, quiet warm room, (J3.115.w2).

"60mg/kg has been used in waterfowl with varying success" (B10.26.w3).

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Wide margin of safety (J13.51.w1).
  • May be used for restraint or diagnostic procedures (J13.51.w1).
  • May be useful for reducing stress when handling swans and other large species (B11.9.w20).
  • Little respiratory depression (B11.9.w20).
  • Little cardiovascular depression (B11.9.w20).
  • Broken down in the liver, excreted by the kidneys (B14).
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Poor anaesthetic when used alone (B11.9.w20).
  • Rough recovery, frequently with wing-flapping, sometimes with excitation - may lead to trauma
  • Full recovery may take three hours (dose dependant) (B11.9.w20).
  • Not suitable for major surgical procedures (insufficient muscle relaxation and analgesia) (J13.51.w1)
  • Cornea must be protected from trauma if eyes remain open.
  • Cardiac depressant.
  • Respiratory depressant.
  • May be toxic effects with dehydration, debility, hepatic dysfunction or kidney dysfunction.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers Ketamine: e.g. Ketaset (Fort Dodge Animal Health), Vetalar V (Pharmacia & Upjohn Limited). Both are colourless solutions containing 100mg/ml ketamine as ketamine hydrochloride, with benzethonium chloride 0.01% as a preservative (B90).
Expertise level / Ease of Use Procedure should only be undertaken by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience; this would usually be a veterinarian or someone with advanced veterinary technician training.

N.B. Whenever an anaesthetic is undertaken, the anaesthetist must be familiar with emergency protocols. Consideration must be given as to the availability of equipment required to monitor the anaesthetic plane of the animal being anaesthetized and any equipment/drugs required for revival. It is advisable to calculate the doses of any revival agents which may be required in an emergency BEFORE COMMENCING the anaesthetic (V.w6).

Cost/ Availability  
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery."(see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).).

Use of Drugs (Medication):

  • Many drugs are not registered for use in particular bird species and care should be taken in their use, with proper regard for possible toxic effects. Consideration should be give to relevant legislation regarding the use of drugs.
  • In the UK, guidelines regarding the use of drugs are set out in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct 2000: (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Choice of Medicinal Products).

Before using any anaesthetic agent or combination of agents the manufacturer's data sheet on the agent or agents concerned should be consulted, taking particular note of any contra-indications and operator warnings.

References J3.115.w2, J13.51.w1, B10.26.w3, B11.9.w20, B14, B90, P7.1.w4, V.w6

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