Anesthesia for Pocket Pets


With nearly 44 million exotic small animal pets in the US, sooner or later you’ll find yourself anesthetizing one in your practice.  And with pet rats becoming the ever more popular exotic pet of choice – especially in states where other exotic mammals are banned as pets – chances are you’ll be anesthetizing a rat.

In his article Oh, Rats! Why the Rodents Are Becoming Increasingly Popular Pets, Kenneth Miller recounts how he and his wife swallowed their misgivings and bought a pair of female rats for their daughter, who is allergic to more conventional pets.  He writes, “Ounce for ounce, Cookie and Blueberry have more personality than many conventional domestic animals. They run excitedly to their cage door when we enter the room. They enjoy being tickled and playing peekaboo behind the sofa cushions.”

He admits that as small critters go, there’s something about rats that generates particular “ardor” among their owners.  And according to statistics from the American Pet Products Association, that ardor has led the number of households with pet rats to nearly double in just a few years.  And families who love their pocket pets bring them to veterinarians for medical attention, anticipating the same level of care given to more conventional pets.

Fortunately when we are occasionally faced with anesthetizing a pocket pet, we can turn to the research industry that has pioneered rodent anesthesia, to provide us with normal physical parameters and suggestions for appropriate drug combinations.  But most of us rely on gas anesthesia for our clinical practices, and finding an effective gas anesthesia delivery system for rodents and pocket pets, outside of the research environment, is another story.

Despite the ongoing progress made by researchers in rodent anesthesia, there are still longstanding challenges anesthetists need to address.  Common among these are

  • Morbidity / mortality due to hypothermia
  • Waste gas contamination of the workplace
  • Long, uncontrolled inductions
  • Variable, unpredictable depth of anesthesia
  • High cost of anesthetic gas and oxygen

DarvallVet has developed innovative solutions to these longstanding challenges that have been adopted by such prestigious institutions as the new FDA White Oak research campus in Maryland, and AbbVie, home to 29,000 scientists, researchers, and manufacturing specialists located around the globe.  Now the same gas anesthesia delivery systems that reduce hypothermia and eliminate waste gas contamination in research institutions are available to clinical practice.  Whether your practice sees several pocket pets a year, or several a day, DarvallVet has the right breathing circuit for you.

ZDS Mask –

ZDS-MaskThe Darvall ZDS Mask is perfect for the clinical practice that sees only the occasional bird or pocket pet.  It’s also a great answer for anesthetizing small puppies and kittens.  Its clever design delivers fresh gas directly to the patient, preventing resistance to breathing and eliminating dead space.  As a matter of fact, ZDS stands for “Zero Dead Space”.  The ZDS Mask provides rapid and predictable anesthesia and is efficient enough to allow reduced flow rates, saving time, money, and protecting your patient’s body temperature.  It comes with two different sized diaphragms to prevent waste gas from leaking into the room.  The overall concept is simple enough that you could make one yourself just by looking at the picture, but it’s so reasonably priced that it’s hardly worth the effort.  It’s available in autoclavable and non-autoclavable models, although it’s the rare clinical practice that would need to spend the extra money on an autoclavable model.

ZDS Qube –

300-dpi-fatso-and-blockThe Darvall ZDS Qube is the all-around anesthesia workhorse for the exotics practice or practices that see a number of small pocket pets every week.  Its patented unidirectional low-flow design allows you to turn the oxygen flow rate down to a minimum (see your vaporizer’s recommended minimum oxygen flow rate) saving up to 80% of the cost of oxygen and anesthetic gas, as well as protecting your tiny patient from the how high flow rates syphon off body temperature.  To further maintain crucial body temperature in very small pets, the ZDS Qube is available in heated and non-heated models.  The Heated ZDS Qube warms the inspired gases, warming your patient from the inside out.

MasksThe ZDS Qube is an aluminum block weighing about a pound, adding security and stability to patient positioning.  There is a full range of interchangeable ZDS Qube masks and diaphragms available to minimize waste gas contamination and to fit any bird, pocket pet or positioning situation.  And like the ZDS Mask, the ZDS Qube provides rapid, consistent, and predictable anesthesia.

Developed for use in the best research institutions in the world, both the ZDS Mask and the ZDS Qube attach easily to your clinical gas machine without tools.  They’re simple to set up and simple to use, providing state of the art delivery of anesthetic gas to your clinical practice.

“They promptly won our hearts,” writes Miller about Cookie and Blueberry. Like half a million other American families, his has fallen in love with this less-than-conventional pet. Whether your practice sees the occasional rat or is an exotics specialty practice, it is now possible to borrow a page from the experts’ playbook and provide safer, predictable gas anesthesia to your clients’ pocket pets.white-rat-golden-teddy.jpg.838x0_q80

“To own a rat,” says Dale Burkhart, Vice President of the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association, “is to know that forever your heart will walk outside your body on four little feet.”



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Ken Crump AAS, AHT is a writer and animal anesthetist, and writes Making Anesthesia Easier for DarvallVet, a division of Advanced Anesthesia Specialists.  He makes dozens of Continuing Education presentations on veterinary anesthesia and oncology across the United States and in Canada.  Ken retired from the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University in 2008
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