This article reports on respiratory function in white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) immobilized with etorphine-azaperone and the changes induced by butorphanol administration as part of a multifaceted crossover study that also investigated the effects of etorphine or etorphine-butorphanol treatments. Six male white rhinoceros underwent two immobilizations by using 1) etorphine-azaperone and 2) etorphine-azaperone-butorphanol. Starting 10 min after recumbency, arterial blood gases, limb muscle tremors, expired minute ventilation, and respiratory rate were evaluated at 5-min intervals for 25 min. Alveolar to arterial oxygen gradient, expected respiratory minute volume, oxygen consumption, and carbon dioxide production were calculated. Etorphine-azaperone administration resulted in hypoxemia and hypercapnia, with increases in alveolar to arterial oxygen gradient, oxygen consumption, and carbon dioxide production, and a decrease in expired minute ventilation. Muscle tremors were also observed. Intravenous butorphanol administration in etorphine-azaperone–immobilized white rhinoceros resulted in less hypoxemia and hypercapnia; a decrease in oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, and expired minute ventilation; and no change in the alveolar to arterial oxygen gradient and rate of breathing. We show that the immobilization of white rhinoceros with etorphine-azaperone results in hypoxemia and hypercapnia and that the subsequent intravenous administration of butorphanol improves both arterial blood oxygen and carbon dioxide partial pressures.

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