OBJECTIVE To determine antinociceptive efficacy, behavioral patterns, and respiratory effects associated with dexmedetomidine administration in ball pythons (Python regius).
ANIMALS 12 ball pythons.
PROCEDURES Antinociception was assessed by applying an infrared heat stimulus to the cranioventral surface of snakes during 2 experiments. Thermal withdrawal latency was measured at 0, 2, and 24 hours after SC injections of dexmedetomidine (0.1 or 0.2 mg/kg) or saline (0.9% NaCl) solution and at 0 to 60 minutes after injection of dexmedetomidine (0.1 mg/kg) or saline solution. Behaviors were recorded at 0, 2, and 24 hours after administration of dexmedetomidine (0.1 mg/kg) or saline solution. Tongue flicking, head flinch to the approach of an observer's hand, movement, and righting reflex were scored. Respiratory frequency was measured by use of plethysmography to detect breathing-related movements after injection of dexmedetomidine (0.1 mg/kg) or saline solution.
RESULTS Mean baseline withdrawal latency was 5 to 7 seconds; saline solution did not alter withdrawal latency. Dexmedetomidine increased withdrawal latency by 18 seconds (0.2 mg/kg) and 13 seconds (0.1 mg/kg) above baseline values at 2 hours. Increased withdrawal latency was detected within 15 minutes after dexmedetomidine administration. At 2 hours after injection, there were few differences in behavioral scores. Dexmedetomidine injection depressed respiratory frequency by 55% to 70%, compared with results for saline solution, but snakes continued to breathe without prolonged apnea.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Dexmedetomidine increased noxious thermal withdrawal latency without causing excessive sedation. Therefore, dexmedetomidine may be a useful analgesic drug in ball pythons and other snake species.