Original Research

Do potent immobilising-opioids induce different physiological effects in impala and blesbok?

Silke Pfitzer, Michael Laurence, Liesel Laubscher, Jacobus P. Raath, Kristin Warren, Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, Leith R.C. Meyer
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 91 | a2038 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v91i0.2038 | © 2020 Silke Pfitzer, Michael Laurence, Liesel Laubscher, Jacobus P. Raath, Kristin Warren, Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, Leith R.C. Meyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 November 2019 | Published: 06 August 2020

About the author(s)

Silke Pfitzer, School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia; and, School of Biology and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, University of Mpumalanga, Nelspruit, South Africa
Michael Laurence, School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia
Liesel Laubscher, Department of Animal Science, University of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa
Jacobus P. Raath, Wildlife Pharmaceuticals South Africa (Pty) Ltd, White River, South Africa
Kristin Warren, School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia
Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia
Leith R.C. Meyer, Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies and Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Potent opioids are known to cause negative alterations to the physiology of immobilised antelope. How these effects differ between species has not been studied. This study aimed to compare time to recumbence and effects of opioid-based immobilisation on the physiology of impala (Aepyceros melampus) and blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi). Eight animals of each species were immobilised, with 0.09 mg/kg etorphine and 0.09 mg/kg thiafentanil respectively, in a randomised two-way cross-over study. Variables measured and analysed by means of a linear mixed model included time to recumbence, heart rate, respiratory rate, arterial blood pressure, blood gases, lactate and glucose. In blesbok, mean time to recumbence was not significantly different with either drug (2.5 minutes and 2.2 min, respectively), but in impala thiafentanil achieved a shorter time to recumbence (2.0 min) than etorphine (3.9 min). Mean heart rates of immobilised impala were within reported physiological limits, but lower in immobilised blesbok when both opioids were used (35 beats/min to 44 beats/min vs. 104 ± 1.4 beats/min resting heart rate). Impala developed severe respiratory compromise and hypoxaemia from both opioids (overall mean PaO2 values ranged from 38 mmHg to 59 mmHg over 30 min). In contrast, blesbok developed only moderate compromise. Therefore, significantly different species-specific physiological responses to potent opioid drugs exist in blesbok and impala. Given that these different responses are clinically relevant, extrapolation of immobilising drug effects from one species of African ungulate to another is not recommended.

Keywords

Blesbok; etorphine; immobilisation; impala; opioids; thiafentanil

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