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ANAESTHESIA of giraffes carries particular risks of morbidity and mortality as a result of the physical characteristics of a large, long-legged, long-necked animal with a heavy head; death is reported in approximately one in 10 cases (Benbow and Lyon 2001, Bush and others 2002, Flach and others 2002). Mortality may relate to physical damage or occasionally regurgitation and aspiration (Citino and Bush 2007). This short communication describes an accident during recovery of a giraffe from an otherwise straightforward anaesthetic.
A 10-year-old reticulated giraffe bull (estimated weight 1000 kg) was anaesthetised for treatment of overgrown and misshapen hooves. Food was withheld for 18 hours and water for 12 hours before the procedure. The giraffe house was prepared by covering the walls with small straw bales, and bedding was allowed to accumulate over several days as deep litter.
Haloperidol (20 mg) (Serenace; Baker Norton) was administered intramuscularly by remote injection (JM Special Rifle; Dan-Inject). One hour later, 50 mg medetomidine (Zalopine; Orion) was administered intramuscularly by dart, followed by 2000 mg ketamine (ketamine dry; Parke Davis), administered by the same route once sedation had developed. The giraffe became recumbent 10 minutes after the administration of ketamine, and a further dose of 500 mg ketamine was injected intravenously to allow tracheal intubation using manual palpation (25 mm cuffed endotracheal tube). …