Ketamine/Xylazine 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 --
Description Suggested ratios of xylazine:ketamine vary from 1:5 to 1:10 (P7.1.w4).

Xylazine 1.0-4.0mg/kg, Ketamine 10-20mg/kg, intramuscular (P7.1.w4).

Xylazine 0.25-0.50mg/kg, Ketamine 2.5-5.0mg/kg, intravenous (P7.1.w4).

Xylazine 2.2mg/kg, Ketamine 4.4mg/kg, intravenous (B11.9.w20).

Using 20mg/kg ketamine, 5mg/kg xylazine, intramuscular, induction within five to seven minutes, anaesthesia lasts 10-20 minutes, able to stand and perch by one to two hours (B14).

Xylazine 1.0-4.0mg , ketamine 5.0-30mg/kg, intramuscular (B13.39.w16).

Xylazine 0.25-0.50mg/kg, ketamine 2.5-5.0mg/kg, intravenous (B13.39.w16).

Xylazine 0.28mg/kg (range 0.160.53mg/kg), ketamine 12.5mg/kg (range 7.2-24mg/kg) used in 130 Mute swans CYgnus olor (total 175 anaesthetics): prepared as 90mg (0.9ml) ketamine, 2mg (0.1ml) xulazine in one syring to gve total volume 1ml (P3.1999b.w1,  B37.x.w1).

  • Slow intravenous injection, medial tarsal vein, 3/4 dose, followed by remainder after 1 minute if judged necessary.
  • Bolus injection of whole dose in larger birds.
  • Intubation recommended following induction.
  • 5-10 minutes surgical anaesthesia, upto 20 minutes restraint e.g. for radiography reported.
  • May be followed by isoflurane maintenance 1-2% (see: Isoflurane Anaesthesia in Waterfowl).
  • "Top up" dose of e.g. 0.6-1ml may be used to maintain anaesthesia.


(see: Intramuscular Injection of Birds, Intravenous Injection of Birds)

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Relatively safe in a wide range of species (B14)
  • Muscle relaxation fairly good (B14)
  • Respiration only slightly depressed. (B14)
  • Induction and recovery reported to be "rapid, smooth and uneventful" in mute swans Cygnus olor (P3.1999b.w1).
  • Suitable for use in swans (Cygnus olor) (P3.1999b.w1)
  • Eyes may or may not be closed. (B14)
  • Palpebral reflex may be sluggish or absent. (B14)
  • Xylazine may be reversed with atipamezole or with yohimbine

In mute swans: intravenous, 12.5mg/kg (7.2-24.0mg/kg) ketamine plus 0.28mg/kg (0.16-0.53mg/kg) xylazine. Used less successfully in other waterfowl species (B37.x.w1).

Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Slow recovery if given intramuscular.
  • Prolonged recovery if not reversed.
  • May be cardiac irregularities when given intravenously.
  • May be disturbance of respiratory pattern when given intravenously.
  • Incoordination during recovery.
  • May be some excitement during recovery.
  • May be copious salivation (P3.1999b.w1)
  • N.B. unsafe in long-legged birds (B14).
  • "Many species of nocturnal raptors and waterfowl respond poorly to xylazine/ketamine" (P7.1.w4)
  • Variable species and individual response and low therapeutic index: starting at low end of dosage range, and giving intravenous to effect suggested (B13.39.w16).
  • May be less useful for ducks and geese than for swans (P3.1999b.w1).
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).

Xylazine: e.g. Rompun 2% solution (Bayer plc) containing 23.32 mg xylazine hydrochloride per ml (equivalent to 20mg xylazine per ml), plus 1mg/ml methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate (E218) as preservative; Rompun Dry Substance (Bayer plc) in vials as a water-soluble white crystalline powder, with each vial containing 583 mg xylazine hydrochloride, equivalent to 500 mg xylazine. Each vial is in a pack containing a vial of 50ml solvent (containing 0.07% w/v methylhydroxybenzoate and 0.03% w/v propylhydroxybenzoate as preservatives) (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 Relatively inexpensive compared to e.g. alphaxalone/alphadalone or propofol (P3.1999b.w1).
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.

Author Debra Bourne
References B11.9.w20, B13.39.w16, B14, B37.x.w1, P3.1999b.w1, P7.1.w4, V.w6

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