editorial board
past issues
contact us


printer friendly page    email page

2011, Vol. 6 No. 1, Article 81


Comparison of Anaesthetic Effects of Ketamine -Xylazine and Ketamine- Diazepam Combination in Budgerigar

M. Javdani Gandomani*, A. Ghashghaii, A. Tamadon, H. R. Attaran, M. A. Behzadi and Z. Javdani


Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine,
Razi University Kermanshah, Iran



*Corresponding Author; e-mail address: javdani59@yahoo.com



Twelve healthy budgerigars, weighing 20-30 grams were randomly assigned to two groups (n = 6). Group A received xylazine – ketamine regimen (10 mg/kg and 40 mg/kg, respectively) and Group B received diazepam – ketamine regimen (2 mg/kg and 80 mg/kg, respectively). The effects of each combination on heart rate, respiratory rate, cloacal temperature, and the foot web pinch response with the time of induction, maintenance and recovery period of anesthesia were recorded. There were no differences between the induction time and the recovery time in the two groups, but the time of anesthetic maintenance between them differed significantly (P ≤ 0.05). Pain reflexes were elicited at all times in half of the birds in group B and all birds of group A. Mean heart rate and respiratory rate decreased sharply and significantly at 30 and 45 minutes, respectively in each group and remained below the baseline value for 180 minutes (P ≤ 0.05). xylazine – ketamine had a significantly lower effect on heart rate and respiratory rate than diazepam – ketamine combination. There was a significant decrease in cloacal temperature in the first 15 minutes post xylazine – ketamine administration. Intramuscular injection of xylazine – ketamine in healthy budgerigars provided a safe and long lasting anesthesia with an excellent induction and better recovery period than the diazepam – ketamine administration.


Budgerigar, Intramuscular anesthesia, Xylazine – ketamine, Diazepam – ketamine.


Injectable anesthetics like barbiturates, chloral hydrate, alpha chloralose, phenothiazines, dissociatives, alpha-2 adrenergic agonists, alphaxalone / alphadolone and propofol are frequently used in birds because of their quick and easy administration. (2, 3). The greatest disadvantages of injectable anesthetics are the individual and species variations relative to drug dose and response, difficulty in administrating a safe volume to small birds, difficulty in maintaining surgical anesthesia without cardiopulmonary depression and the potential for prolonged, violent recoveries. Precise body weight in grams is essential for accurate anesthetic dosing in birds. Ketamine has been recommended by several researchers as a suitable anesthetic agent for birds, but it is rarely used alone because of poor muscle relaxation, muscle tremors, myotonic contractions, opisthotonus and rough recoveries (2, 4-7). Benzodiazepines on the other hand provide muscle relaxation and act as sedatives and can also reduce anxiety during anesthetic induction and recovery. The alpha-2-adrenergic agonists such as xylazine provide muscle relaxation, analgesia and sedation which smoothes induction and recovery (6, 8). Various combinations of anesthetics have been used for injectable avian anesthesia, the study was aimed at comparing the anesthetic effects of two different anesthetic combinations (xylazine – ketamine and diazepam – ketamine) in budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus).


Twelve healthy budgerigars, weighing 20-30 grams of either sex were randomly allotted to two groups (n= 6). Group A received xylazine (10 mg/kg) and ketamine (40 mg/kg) in combination (xylazine – ketamine regimen) and group B received diazepam (2 mg/kg) and ketamine (80 mg/kg) combination (diazepam – ketamine regimen) for inducing anesthesia. A 25 gauge, 5/8 inch needle and a disposable 1 ml syringe were used for intramuscular injection.
Foot web pinch response, respiratory rate (RR) and Cloacal temperature (CT) was recorded. Heart rate (HR) was measured with a modified non-invasive Doppler procedure that was placed over the plantar arcuate artery on the ventral side of the foot web. The induction period was taken as the time between the injection of one combination until the absence of a reaction to a noxious stimulus (abdominal feather plucking). Duration of loss of righting reflex and unresponsiveness to painful stimulus was recorded as maintenance period of anesthesia. The recovery period was taken as the time between the absence of a reaction to the painful stimulus until the time birds could stand up. The time of induction, maintenance and the recovery period of the anesthesia were recorded. The baseline (time 0) respiratory and heart rates were measured before drug administration and thereafter every 15 minutes for 180 minutes. Baseline values were measured when the birds were awake and a few minutes after being manually restrained. The cloacal temperature was measured prior to and 15 minutes after induction and every 1 hour during anesthesia.
The data of the respiratory rate, heart rate and cloacal temperature were analyzed with ANOVA for repeated measures. Paired T-test was performed to compare the duration of the anesthesia (introduction, maintenance, and recovery). When the differences were significant (P ≤ 0.05), a paired Student’s t-test was used to compare the results with the baseline values.


Table 1 shows the time of induction, maintenance, and the recovery under the two different anesthetic regimens. There was no difference between the induction time and the recovery time among two groups, but the time of maintenance of anesthesia varied significantly (P ≤ 0.05). During anesthesia, in both groups the eyes remained closed but the palpebral reflex was present. The recovery period in some of the birds from group B (diazepam – ketamine) was rough, with leg movements and wing flapping, and some degree of abnormal posture was noticed in two birds. Pain reflexes were elicited at all times in half the birds of group B and all birds of group A.
Fig. 1A depicts the effects of xylazine – ketamine and diazepam – ketamine on heart rates in different times. Mean heart rate decreased sharply and significantly at 30 minutes in each group and the remained below the baseline value for 180 minutes (P ≤ 0.05). Xylazine – ketamine combination caused a significantly (P ≤ 0.05) greater decrease in heart rate than the diazepam – ketamine combination
Mean respiratory rate decreased significantly (P≤ 0.05; Fig. 1B) at 45 minutes after induction of anesthesia in both groups. The effect of the xylazine – ketamine combination in depressing respiratory rate was higher than that of diazepam – ketamine combination except from 135th minute till the end of the recording. A significant decrease (P ≤ 0.05; Fig. 1C) in cloacal temperature in the first 15 minutes was observed after the xylazine – ketamine injection.


Ketamine is probably the most commonly used anesthetic agent in birds, but its use as the sole agent for anesthetizing the budgerigar is not advisable because it is associated with muscular tremors and myclonic cramps (2). Mandelker (1975) suggested that a single 2 mg dose of ketamine induces anesthesia in budgerigar. To lessen the undesirable effects of ketamine, a combination of ketamine with other drugs is recommended. Machin & Caulkett 1 used a combination of medetomidine – midazolam – ketamine in mallard ducks, which caused the death of one of 12 birds and three other ducks required resuscitation. Varner et al. (2004) described the lack of efficacy of injectable ketamine with xylazine or diazepam for anesthesia in chickens. Christensen et al. (1987) showed that a combination of diazepam and ketamine was not satisfactory, producing a light anesthesia with cramps and excitation. A xylazine – ketamine combination was effective for induction of anesthesia in chickens (10). Samour et al. (1989) and Mostachio et al. (2008) reported good muscle relaxation in anesthesia after using a combination of ketamine with xylazine in chickens. In feral pigeons (Columba livia) the combination of ketamine and xylazine caused excitation and convulsions (7).
During present the trial, heart rate decreased sharply after drug administration in both the groups. Similar finding was reported with a xylazine – ketamine combination in chicken ( Maiti et al. 10) and with medetomidine – midazolam – ketamine combination in mallard ducks (1). Bradycardia after using a medetomidine – ketamine combination has been recorded in pigeons (12). Xylazine and medetomidine use has been associated with decrease in heart rate (13, 14). The arrythmogenic effects of the xylazine can lead to cardiovascular instability and, when coupled with hypoventilation and hypercarbia, can have an irreversible, fatal effects. Also, alpha2-adrenergic agonist drugs are a poor choice as anesthetics, alone or in combination, when the bird is highly stressed.
In the diazepam – ketamine group the heart rate decreased significantly (P ≤ 0.05). 30 minutes after administration, the finding differed with reports of Varner et al. (2004). Similarly, ketamine – diazepam induced minimal effects on the cardiovascular system. Thus, the depressing effect of the xylazine – ketamine combination on heart rate was seen to be more than that of the diazepam – ketamine combination.
The respiratory rate decreased significantly in anesthetized birds of both the groups (P ≤ 0.05). Similar observations were recorded after the administration of a xylazine – ketamine combination in chickens (7), alpha-2 agonist – ketamine in chickens (6, 10) and pigeons (12), medetomidine – midazolam – ketamine combinations, and alpha-2 agonist in ducks (1). Xylazine has been known to show a high depressant action on the respiratory system, thus respiratory rate in the xylazine – ketamine combination group was found to be significantly decreased (P ≤ 0.05).
Uzun et al. (2003) and Maiti et al. (2006) reported a decrease in cloacal temperature after alpha-2 agonist – ketamine combination and diazepam – ketamine combination administration. During anesthesia, due to depression of the thermoregulatory center, reduction of heat production and basal metabolism, a decrease in body temperature occurs. Xylazine being a deeper sedative than diazepam caused a greater drop in body temperature.
Induction period of less than one minute in both the groups was recorded. Mostachio et al. (2008) recorded an induction period of 13.1 ± 2.9 minutes with intramuscular xylazine – diazepam – ketamine administration in roosters. The duration of anesthesia was significantly (P ≤ 0.05) longer in the xylazine – ketamine group than the diazepam – ketamine group. Group B showed no analgesic activity with poor recovery marked by leg movements and wing flapping and abnormal posture. Exhibition of pain reflexes at all times was seen in half of the birds of group B.
In conclusion, intramuscular injection of xylazine – ketamine combination in healthy budgerigars provides a safe and long lasting anesthesia with an excellent induction and recovery period when compared to diazepam – ketamine combination administration.


The authors thankful to Dr. Tapan Kumar Pattanaik, Associate Professor, Veterinary Surgery and Radiology for his kind help during this research work and providing information regarding the journal Vetscan.


  1. Machin KL, Caulkett NA. Cardiopulmonary effects of propofol and a medetomidine-midazolam-ketamine combination in mallard ducks. Am J Vet Res. 1998; 59: 598-602.

  2. Christensen J, Fosse RT, Halvorsen OJ, Morild I. Comparison of various anesthetic regimens in the domestic fowl. Am J Vet Res. 1987;48:1649-1657.

  3. Curro TG. Anesthesia of pet birds. Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine. 1998; 7: 10-21.

  4. Mama KR, Phillips LG, Pascoe PJ. Use of propofol for induction and maintenance of anesthesia in a barn owl (Tyto alba) undergoing tracheal resection. J Zoo Wildlife Med. 1996; 27: 397-401.

  5. Mandelker IM. Veterinary Medicine, Small Animal Clinician; 1972.

  6. Mohammad FK, al-Badrany MS, al-Hasan AM. Detomidine-ketamine anaesthesia in chickens. Vet Rec. 1993; 133: 192.

  7. Samour JH, Jones DM, Knight JA, Howlett JC. Comparative studies of the use of some injectable anaesthetic agents in birds. Vet Rec. 1984;115:6-11.

  8. Heaton JT, Brauth SE. Effects of yohimbine as a reversing agent for ketamine-xylazine anesthesia in budgerigars. Lab Anim. 1992; 42: 54-56.

  9. Varner J, Clifton KR, Poulos S, Broderson R, Wyatt RD. Lack of efficacy of injectable ketamine with xylazine or diazepam for anesthesia in chickens. Lab Anim. 2004; 33: 36-39.

  10. Maiti SK, Tiwary R, Vasan P, Dutta A. Xylazine, diazepam and midazolam premedicated ketamine anesthesia in white leghorn cockerels for typhlectomy. J S Afr Vet Assoc. 2006; 77: 12-18.

  11. Mostachio GQ, de-Oliveira LD, Carciofi AC, Vicente WR. The effects of anesthesia with a combination of intramuscular xylazine-diazepam-ketamine on heart rate, respiratory rate and cloacal temperature in roosters. Vet Anesth Analg. 2008; 35: 232-236.

  12. Uzun M, Yildiz S, Atalan G, Kaya M, Sulu N. Effects of medetomidine- ketamine combination anesthesia on electrocardiographic findings, body temperature, and heart and respiratory rates in domestic pigeons. Turk J Anim Sci. 2003; 27: 377-382.

  13. Degernes LA, Kreeger TJ, Mandsager R, Redig PT. Ketamine-xylazine anesthesia in red-tailed hawks with antagonism by yohimbine. J Wildl Dis. 1988; 24: 322-326.

  14. Ludders JW. Avian anesthesia for the general practitioner. Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference. 1992: 791-793.

  15. Lumeij JT. Effects of ketamine-xylazine anesthesia on adrenal function and cardiac conduction in goshawks and pigeons. In: Redig PT, Cooper JE, Remple D, eds. Raptor biomedicine. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 1993: 145-149.

  16. Raffe MR, Mammel M, Gordon M, Duke G, Redig PT, Boros S. Cardiorespiratory effects of ketamine-xylazine in the great horned owl. In: Redig PT, Cooper JE, Remple JD, eds. Raptor biomedicine. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 1993: 150-153.


Table-1: Mean (± SD) of time of three anesthesia stages in two different combinations of anesthetic agent in two groups of budgerigars (n = 6)

Anesthetic combination

Introduction (second)

Maintenance (minute)

Recovery (minute)

Xylazine – ketamine

42.71±1.38 a

215.57±9.02 a

60.14±2.12 a

Diazepam – ketamine

36.85±1.21 a

140.43±15.87 b

63.43±1.90 a

Means in columns with the different letters are significantly different (P ≤ 0.05).


Figure-1: Effects of xylazine – ketamine (n) and diazepam – ketamine (▲) on mean (±SD) of heart rate (A), respiratory rate (B) and cloacal temperature (C) in two groups of budgerigar (n = 6). Significant differences (P ≤ 0.05) in the time of measuring of each parameter between two anesthetic combinations are shown by the stars (*)

fig 1


Copyright © Vet Scan 2005-

All Right Reserved with VetScan
www.vetscan.co.in and www.kashvet.org
ISSN 0973-6980


Home | e-Learning |Resources | Alumni | Forum | Picture blog | Disclaimer




powered by eMedia Services