Evaluation of the effects of a dexmedetomidine-midazolam-ketamine combination administered intramuscularly to captive red-footed tortoises ( Chelonoidis carbonaria)

Am J Vet Res. 2021 Nov;82(11):858-864. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.82.11.858.


Objective: To evaluate the effects of a dexmedetomidine-midazolam-ketamine (DMK) combination administered IM to captive red-footed tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonaria).

Animals: 12 healthy adult red-footed tortoises.

Procedures: In a prospective experimental study, DMK (0.1, 1.0, and 10 mg/kg, respectively) was administered IM as separate injections into the right antebrachium. Atipamezole (0.5 mg/kg, IM) and flumazenil (0.05 mg/kg, SC) were administered into the left antebrachium 60 minutes later. Times to the first treatment response and maximal treatment effect after DMK administration and time to recovery after reversal agent administration were recorded. Vital signs and reflexes or responses to stimuli were assessed and recorded at predetermined intervals.

Results: DMK treatment produced deep sedation or light anesthesia for ≥ 20 minutes in all tortoises. Induction and recovery were rapid, with no complications noted. Median times to first response, maximum effect, and recovery were 4.5, 35, and 14.5 minutes, respectively. Two tortoises required additional reversal agent administration but recovered < 20 minutes after the repeated injections. Mean heart and respiratory rates decreased significantly over time. All animals lost muscle tone in the neck and limbs from 35 to 55 minutes after DMK injection, but other variables including palpebral reflexes, responses to mild noxious stimuli (eg, toe pinching, tail pinching, and saline ([0.9 NaCl] solution injection), and ability to intubate were inconsistent.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: DMK administration produced deep sedation or light anesthesia with no adverse effects in healthy adult red-footed tortoises. At the doses administered, deep surgical anesthesia was not consistently achieved. Anesthetic depth must be carefully evaluated before performing painful procedures in red-footed tortoises with this DMK protocol.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dexmedetomidine* / pharmacology
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology
  • Ketamine* / pharmacology
  • Midazolam / pharmacology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Turtles*


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Dexmedetomidine
  • Ketamine
  • Midazolam