Analgesia and Sedation in Exotic Companion Mammals

Key Points

  • As prey species, rabbits and rodents are good at hiding signs of pain. Assessment of pain often relies upon subtle behavioral changes or pain may be inferred by the absence of normal behaviors. Predator species, like the ferret, are more likely to show overt signs of pain.
  • Adequate analgesia is required in the treatment of many small mammal diseases. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like the selective COX-2 inhibitor meloxicam, are very commonly used in exotic companion mammals. Opioids are also useful in many painful conditions.
  • Chemical restraint is commonly used for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in small mammals. Sedation is a valuable option in patients for which general anesthesia presents moderate to significant risk, in particular the geriatric, ill, or critical patient. Midazolam is often used and this sedative can be paired with opioids, such as butorphanol and buprenorphine.

The approach to analgesia and sedation in exotic companion mammals faces special challenges, including small patient size and unique features of the prey species mentality. Recognition of pain is more difficult in rabbits and rodents because many small mammals are very good at hiding the signs of pain commonly observed in predator species. Instead pain in a rabbit or rodent is often inferred from the patient’s clinical condition as well as the absence of normal behaviors. The diagnostic and therapeutic plan frequently requires some form of chemical restraint in exotic mammal medicine. When compared to general anesthesia, sedation is . . .

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