Old 01-13-2009, 11:00 PM
PapSett PapSett is offline
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Southern Indiana
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Animal Tranquilizers

I am working on writing a story set in a big cat sanctuary, and need information on the tranquilizers used when darting animals. I tried googling, but without knowing exactely what I was looking for, I wasn't getting anything really useful.

The situation I am setting up: A new employee accidentially shoots himself in the leg. I want him to have a moment to think "This can't be good..." and drop like a rock. Feasable? Don't want him dead, LOL, there can be an antidote readily available, it's just mainly a comic relief moment. He's male, about 180 lbs. If it was a dose for a larger cat- lion or tiger- would it be fatal? There are smaller cats there as well, cougars, leopards, etc. What type of drug is used? Any help here would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!
Old 01-13-2009, 11:28 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Location: My Own Private Iowa
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A common tranq for all kinds of animals is ketamine, called K or Special K when it's used (illegally) by humans. According to this page, an overdose would knock a human out cold in a minute or two, but it would take repeated ODs to be fatal.
Old 01-14-2009, 07:30 AM
PapSett PapSett is offline
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Location: Southern Indiana
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Thank you! That sounds like what I'm looking for!
Old 01-14-2009, 12:24 PM
hellpaso hellpaso is offline
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Mr. HP occasionally uses it (ketamine) as an anesthetic--an appropriate dose works for only a short time--leaving the patient briefly with a "thousand yard stare".
Old 01-14-2009, 12:54 PM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
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Acepromazine is commonly used to tranquilize horses, cats, dogs. Apparently in the 50s it was used on humans. I'm sure you could use it on a large cat. However, on a horse it takes 15 minutes to take effect when give intravenously; 30 minutes when given intramuscularly. I've only given it orally to a cat - it took 30 minutes to take effect.
Old 01-14-2009, 01:20 PM
KarlGrenze KarlGrenze is offline
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Darts usually have a combination of drugs, not just one (and different animals may have slightly different protocols). Ketamine IS one of the ones used, though. I'm not sure how a protocol designed to quiet down a tiger relatively fast is going to act in a human being, though. IIRC, some darts may have concentrations/combinations that are dangerous for humans.

Other drugs include Valium derivatives and alpha-2 agonists (xylazine).
Old 01-14-2009, 03:51 PM
JR Brown JR Brown is offline
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Location: Boston, MA
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Never worked with big cats or dart guns, but I do have a fair amount of animal surgical experience. As far as I know, there are no (safe) drugs that can be administered via intramuscular injection that will result in near-instantaneous unconsciousness; unless you have an IV line prepped it will take a few minutes for the recipient to actually pass out and he probably will have time to call for help and / or give himself a shot of the appropriate reversal agent / antagonist / antidote (for those drugs that have one)*. Dunno if that will make a difference to your storyline.

* In general when using an injectable tranquilizer/anesthetic for which a reversal agent exists it is good practice to have same prepped and ready (or at least close to hand) in case of accidental overdose.

ETA: Ketamine is hard to overdose on but doesn't lead to loss of consciousness as such (only dissociation). It is a controlled substance and has no common reversal agents. Xylazine is faster-acting (and also will not put you 100% out - only a tranquilizer) but it is easy (and fatal) to give too much of. It does have a number of reversal agents and is not a controlled drug.

Last edited by JR Brown; 01-14-2009 at 03:54 PM.
Old 01-14-2009, 07:19 PM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Chicago, Far Northsider
Posts: 7,809
I think the stuff used in tranq guns for wild animals is Telazol. From the cite, if onset is 5-12 minutes for the correct dosing, I'd bet it would be pretty quick for a guy who's half the weight of a tiger.

Dunno if it might just make him stop breathing and die, though.

I work with domestic dogs and cats, Telazol isn't used in domestic veterinary care, so I have no personal experience.

I wonder what Dexter uses to sedate his victims?

Aha, from Wikipedia:
Dexter's modus operandi differs between the books and the television series. In the television series it entails seizing the victim from behind and injecting them with an anesthetic (specified to be an animal tranquilizer called etorphine hydrochloride, or M99), which renders his victims temporarily unconscious
That might be just what you're looking for!
Old 01-14-2009, 08:13 PM
horsetech horsetech is offline
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Actually, some small animal vets do use Telazol for dogs and cats -- it's probably a matter of preference as to which drugs each practice uses.

In horses, even if ketamine is given IV, it takes roughly 45 seconds (give or take) for it to start affecting the brain. Given IM, I'm sure it would take longer.

Some drugs are absorbed rapidly across mucous membranes. What if your keeper uncaps the needle with his mouth, an unsafe but very common practice among this working with large animals (I don't know much about small animal practices)?

JR Brown, xylazine is a good one because it has unwieldy effects in humans on blood pressure and heart rhythms, and the sudden drop in blood pressure/circulation can cause a person to pass out, or worse (I was told a cautionary tale of someone who ended up in a coma due to loss of perfusion from self-injection of xylazine).

Real life story: a friend of mine actually did pass out from absorbing a small amount of xylazine through her oral mucosa when she cracked a needle cap she was holding in her mouth. She recovered fairly quickly -- I'm not sure exactly how long it took, but she remembers spending the night in the ER hooked up to heart monitors to make sure her heart didn't do something funky.

One of the vets I know joked that instead of having "DNR" tattooed on his chest, he would have them write, "Try yohimbine", which is an alpha-2 antagonist/reversal agent for drugs such as xylazine, detomidine, etc.
Old 01-14-2009, 10:19 PM
PapSett PapSett is offline
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Southern Indiana
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Wow... you guys are GOOD!! Reading thru this information you are giving me lots of ideas to build on. Looks like if I get this published, I'll be adding a thank you to the SDMB! :-)


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