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Objective—To determine whether IV administration of a combination of medetomidine and ketamine depresses cardiopulmonary function in healthy adult gopher tortoises.

Design—Prospective study.

Animals—3 adult male and 3 adult female nonreleasable gopher tortoises.

Procedure—Prior to the study, carotid and jugular catheters were surgically placed in each tortoise for blood collection, direct arterial blood pressure monitoring, and drug administration. Heart rate, direct carotid arterial blood pressure, and body temperature were measured before and every 5 minutes for 45 minutes after IV injection of medetomidine (100 µg/kg [45.5 µg/lb]) and ketamine (5 mg/kg [2.3 mg/lb]). Carotid arterial blood samples were collected before and 5, 15, 30, and 45 minutes after medetomidineketamine administration to determine pH, PO2, and PCO2. Atipamezole (500 mg/kg [227 µg/lb], IV) was administered 30 minutes after administration of medetomidine-ketamine.

Results—The medetomidine-ketamine combination caused a moderate increase in arterial blood pressure, and moderate hypercapnia and hypoxemia. There were no significant changes in heart rate or body temperature. Intravenous administration of atipamezole rapidly induced severe hypotension.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The combination of medetomidine and ketamine administered IV resulted in effective short-term immobilization adequate for minor diagnostic procedures in gopher tortoises. This combination also caused moderate hypoventilation, and it is recommended that a supplemental source of oxygen or assisted ventilation be provided. Atipamezole administration hastens recovery from chemical immobilization but induces severe hypotension. It is recommended that atipamezole not be administered IV for reversal of medetomidine in tortoises and turtles. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;220: 1516–1519)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association