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Anesthetic Monitoring
in Exotic Animals

Every anesthetized patient deserves safe, high-quality care, however even the most steadfast and seasoned veterinary anesthetist can find themselves intimidated by exotic animal patients.

How does the unique anatomy/physiology of birds, reptiles, and exotic companion mammals affect anesthetic monitoring parameters? Review the fundamentals of monitoring vital signs, pulse oximetry, electrocardiography, capnography, and blood pressure in these special species.

This content was authored by certified veterinary technician and veterinary technician specialist in anesthesia and analgesia, Katrina Lafferty and critically reviewed by Jody Nugent-Deal, CVT, VTS (Anesthesia/Analgesia) and a Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia, Barbara Ambros.

Monitoring Vital Signs in Exotic Animal Species

snake doppler

Photo credit: Katrina Lafferty, CVT

Standard veterinary anesthesia monitors are not designed to read the extremely high (or extremely low) heart rates and respiratory rates of some exotic animal patients. Despite these challenges, valuable information can be gathered from monitoring tools as well as hands-on techniques. Essential vital signs, such as heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate and depth, body temperature, and mucous membrane color, should ideally be evaluated in every patient.

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Capnometry in Exotic Animal Species

rabbit capnometry

Photo credit: Katrina Lafferty, CVT

Capnometry measures the maximum value of carbon dioxide obtained at the end of expiration or end-tidal carbon dioxide. In what special species can capnography be used as a reliable tool to evaluate the adequacy of ventilation? In what species should capnography be used only to identify clinical trends?

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Blood Pressure Monitoring in Exotic Animal Species

blood pressure

Photo credit: Marla Lichtenberger, DVM, DACVECC

Indirect arterial blood pressure is most commonly measured by non-invasive oscillometric or Doppler ultrasound monitors. How is this technique unique in exotic companion mammals when compared to dogs and cats? How is this technique performed in birds and can this procedure be used in reptiles?

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Pulse Oximetry in Exotic Animal Species

pulse oxometry

Photo credit: Katrina Lafferty, CVT

Ideally, heart rate and oxygenation should be monitored during every anesthetic event. In what special species has pulse oximetry been validated? And how does patient size affect the accuracy of readings during the course of anesthesia?

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Electrocardiography in Exotic Animal Species

turtle ecg

Photo credit: Katrina Lafferty, CVT

Electrocardiography monitors the electrical activity of cardiac muscle cells and is particularly useful during long-term anesthesia when disturbances in acid-base and electrolyte balance can lead to arrhythmias. How are leads attached when monitoring the electrocardiogram in exotic animals? And what is the appearance of normal ECG tracings in birds and reptiles?

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Anesthetic Records

clipboard View the collection of anesthetic records recommended by lead author, Katrina Lafferty and added to LafeberVet’s collection of Forms & Questionnaires:

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Stay Tuned

Coming Soon: Monitoring Anesthetic Depth in Exotic Animal Species

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