Previous studies have validated the clinical use of opioids with κ-receptor affinities for pain management in birds. Butorphanol, a κ opioid receptor agonist and a μ opioid receptor antagonist, is currently considered by many clinicians to be the opioid of choice for this use. However, despite studies reporting the analgesic properties of butorphanol in psittacine birds, dosing intervals have not been established for any psittacine species. The goals of this study in the Hispaniolan Amazon parrot (Amazona ventralis) were to evaluate the pharmacokinetics of butorphanol tartrate after intravenous (IV), intramuscular (IM), and oral (PO) administration and to determine the bioavailability of butorphanol tartrate after oral administration. Twelve Hispaniolan Amazon parrots were used in the study, with a complete-crossover experimental design and a 3-month period separating each part of the study. The birds were randomly assigned to 3 groups (n = 4) for each stage. Butorphanol tartrate was administered once at a dose of 5 mg/kg in the basilic vein or pectoral muscles or as an oral solution delivered via feeding tube into the crop for the IV, IM, and PO studies, respectively. After butorphanol administration, blood samples were collected at 1, 5, 15, 30, 60, 90, 120, 180, and 240 minutes for the IV and IM studies and at 5, 15, 30, 60, 90, 120, 180, 240, and 300 minutes for the PO study. Because of the size limitation of the birds, naïve pooling of datum points was used to generate a mean plasma butorphanol concentration at each time point. For each study, birds in each group (n = 4) were bled 3 times after dosing. Plasma butorphanol concentrations were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry, and pharmacokinetic parameters were calculated. Butorphanol tartrate was found to have high bioavailability and rapid elimination following IM administration. In contrast, oral administration resulted in low bioavailability (<10%), thus precluding the use of this route of administration for clinical purposes. Based on these results, in Hispaniolan Amazon parrots, butorphanol tartrate dosed at 5 mg/kg IV or IM would have to be administered every 2 and 3 hours, respectively, to maintain plasma concentrations consistent with published therapeutic levels. To our knowledge, this is the first published study presenting the pharmacokinetic analysis of butorphanol tartrate in a psittacine species as well as the first study presenting pharmacokinetic analysis of butorphanol after oral administration in any avian species.
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