Advancing the health and well-being of animals and people

Principal Investigator: Jordyn Boesch

Department of Clinical Sciences
Email:; Phone: 607-253-3046
Sponsor: College of Veterinary Medicine-Research Grants Program in Animal Health
Grant Number: N/A
Title: Cardiopulmonary Effects of Medetomidine in White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Project Amount: $37,424
Project Period: 09/01/13-08/31/14

DESCRIPTION: Cervids (including deer, elk, caribou, and moose) are one of the most commonly immobilized groups of freeranging animals in North America. Unfortunately the process of chemically immobilizing them often causes hypoxemia (arterial partial pressure of oxygen, or PaO2, < 80 mm Hg), which can be life-threatening. This may have particular importance for endangered cervids such as the key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) where anesthetic mortality can result in a significant population decline. The mechanism responsible for the hypoxemia remains unclear.

Alpha-2 agonists are potent sedative-analgesics that are almost ubiquitous in the drug combinations used for chemical immobilization of cervids. Hypoxemia is a well-documented complication of alpha-2 agonist administration in domestic sheep. In this species, the hypoxemia has been attributed to pulmonary edema secondary to pulmonary vascular hypertension and activation of pulmonary intravascular macrophages.3-6 We have documented hypoxemia in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) captured with the alpha-2 agonist medetomidine.

We propose to use white-tailed deer as a model for investigating the capture-related hypoxemia that is seen in this and other cervid species. The objective of this study is to test the hypotheses that 1) alpha-2 agonists contribute to the hypoxemia usually seen when cervids are chemically restrained and 2) alpha-2 agonists contribute to hypoxemia by inducing pulmonary hypertension and (signs of) pulmonary edema. Knowledge of whether or not alpha-2 agonists are responsible for causing hypoxemia in white-tailed deer, and if they are, the mechanism whereby they do so, might lead to preventive maneuvers or therapeutic interventions that will increase the safety of anesthesia in this species and possibly other cervids, including endangered cervids.