Sedation and Pain Management of Exotic Companion Mammals

Rabbit with veterinarian

Save the Date

Save the Date for a continuing education webinar presented by Dario d’Ovidio, DVM, MS, SpecPACS, DECZM (Small Mammals) RACE-approved for 1 hour of continuing education.

Date: Sunday, December 13, 2020
Time: 1 pm EST (New York)
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Exotic companion small mammals (e.g. rabbits, rodents, ferrets, etc.) are popular pets, and are frequently presented to veterinary practitioners for several medical reasons. As they can be easily stressed from handling, sedation and anesthesia are often required for many noninvasive clinical procedures, such as nail trimming, blood collection, imaging procedures, inspection of the oral cavity and even for physical examination in those subjects that are not acclimated to human contact. Additionally, chemical restraint is required for any painful or invasive procedure.

Much of the information regarding exotic animal anesthesia comes from studies performed in laboratory animals or is extrapolated from dogs and cats, however important differences exist in physiology, anatomy, and drug metabolism between domestic and exotic mammal species or even between exotic animals belonging to the same order. Sedation is often preferred over general anesthesia in exotic pets in order to decrease the anesthetic risk in these patients, especially in those who are sick or debilitated. In addition, sedation helps reduce anxiety and stress in both healthy and diseased patients.

Several injectable agents can be used for sedation of exotic mammals and include benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam, midazolam, zolazepam), alpha-2-agonists (e.g. medetomidine, dexmedetomidine, xylazine, etc.), opioids (e.g. butorphanol, methadone, buprenorphine, etc.), noncompetitive n-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists (e.g. ketamine, tiletamine, etc.), and neurosteroids (e.g. alfaxalone). In addition, inhalant agents (e.g. isoflurane, sevoflurane) can be considered for short-term immobilization as well as non-painful procedures. All of these drugs can be administered solely or better in combination to achieve synergistic effects to allow overall reduction of the dosage of each single drug as well as required inhalant agents thus decreasing risk associated with the use of heavy sedation or general anesthesia.

Pain management is crucial in several disease conditions and to prevent the postoperative complications (e.g. anorexia, reduced activity, GI disorders, etc.). Multiple analgesic therapies for exotic companion mammals are available and mainly include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids. Locoregional anesthesia and analgesia can be used as an adjunct to sedative protocols and general anesthesia to alleviate pain and to promote a multimodal approach to analgesia. Although research investigating the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of local anesthetics (e.g. lidocaine, bupivacaine, ropivacaine, etc.) is lacking in exotic animal species, these drugs are widely used in the clinical setting with dosages extrapolated from studies conducted in similar species or anecdotal reports. The use of nerve locators or ultrasound guidance is promoted to increase the success rate and decrease the incidence of iatrogenic complications.

Download a PDF version of Dr. d’Ovidio’s abstract.


Guinea pig in towel
  • Definitions
    • Chemical versus physical restraint
    • Anesthesia versus sedation
  • Sedation
    • Injectable agents
      • Benzodiazepines
      • Alpha-2-agonists
      • Opioids
      • NMDA-receptor antagonists
      • Neurosteroids
    • Inhalant agents
  • Pain management
    • Systemic analgesia
    • Locoregional anesthesia/analgesia
      • Blind procedures
      • Nerve locator or ultrasound-guided techniques

About the presenter

Dario d’Ovidio is a Diplomate of the European College of Zoological Medicine (Small Mammals) and a EBVS European Veterinary Specialist in Small Mammal Medicine and Surgery. Dr. d’Ovidio is the Head of the Avian and Exotic Pet Service at the Clinica Veterinaria Malpensa in Samarate, Italy. He is also a referral veterinarian for exotic pets in Naples and a visiting Professor at the Universities of Naples and Parma, Italy. [Learn more].


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Webinar FAQ

How do I view the live webinar event?

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email via To access the webinar on December 13, simply select the URL link in the confirmation email.

When entering the webinar “room”, you will be prompted to download webinar service software. This software can be downloaded immediately before the webinar or right now to ensure a pleasant, viewing experience.

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Do I need special equipment to view and listen to a webinar?
All you need is a computer (or similar device) with an internet connection. Provided your computer has speakers (can you listen to music?) you will be able to view and listen to the webinar.

To enter the webinar “room”, you will be prompted to download webinar service software. This software can be downloaded immediately before the webinar or right now to ensure a pleasant viewing experience.

What web browsers are recommended?
Recommended browsers include Internet Explorer 8 or greater, Mozilla Firefox 3 or greater, Google Chrome or Safari 4 or later. Adobe® Flash® Player 11.3 or later must be installed.

What if I’d like to view the course on a mobile device?
Apps for viewing the webinar are available for Apple devices and Android devices.

Will I be able to ask questions?
If you attend the live webinar, you will be able to ask questions by typing into a chat box on the webinar screen. The speaker will read out and answer as many of the questions as possible.

What happens if I miss the live webinar?
The webinar will be recorded, and the recorded version will be available for viewing within 3 business days of the live presentation.

Additional questions or concerns?
Please contact LafeberVet at


RACE approval

This program 776-44435 is approved by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) Registry of Approved Continuing Education (R.A.C.E.) to offer a total of 1.00 CE credits to any one veterinarian and/or 1.00 veterinary technician CE credit. This RACE approval is for Category Two: Non-Scientific Clinical using the delivery method of Interactive-Distance/Non-Interactive Distance. This approval is valid in jurisdictions which recognize AAVSB RACE; however, participants are responsible for ascertaining each board’s CE requirements. RACE does not “accredit” or “endorse” or “certify” any program or person, nor does RACE approval validate the content of the program.