ABSTRACT

The nutria (Myocastor coypus), a rodent native to South America, has been introduced and has established feral populations at numerous locations in North America, Europe, and Asia. As such, the nutria is subject to research and management programs, including investigation of surgical fertility-control techniques. We evaluated the efficacy of a mixture of ketamine and medetomidine, with additional use of isoflurane and reversal with atipamezole, to provide safe, reliable anesthesia for surgical procedures under field conditions. We anesthetized 40 free-ranging nutrias between December 2018 and March 2019, in Turin, Italy, to perform surgical reproduction control techniques. We administered a ketamine and medetomidine mixture (6 mg/kg and 140 µg/kg, respectively) after trapping the animals and weighing them in the cage traps. After induction, we reweighed the rodents and performed a brief clinical examination. The times of loss of palpebral and pedal reflexes were noted. After induction of anesthesia, heart rate, respiratory rate, and percentage of oxygen saturation were monitored and recorded. Isoflurane was delivered through a face mask to 27 nutrias (70%) to maintain an adequate depth of anesthesia. Upon completion of surgery and other procedures, atipamezole was administered to the animals at doses 2.5 higher than those of medetomidine (actual dose: 366±31 µg/kg). Induction times were short (3±2 min), with the animals completely immobilized. The heart rate and respiratory rate both decreased. After administration of atipamezole, recoveries were smooth and complete. There were two deaths after higher doses of atipamezole and longer surgeries. Carprofen (4 mg/kg) was administered subcutaneously for its analgesic effects. The animals were released at the end of all the procedures. Overall, the medetomidine and ketamine mixture, with supplemental isoflurane in most instances, provided a reliable anesthesia in free-ranging nutrias, adequate for performing surgical procedures under field conditions.

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