Captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are susceptible to lameness resulting from foot and joint pain, including chronic arthritis. In the past, opioid analgesics, such as butorphanol, have been used clinically for pain management. However, dosages used in treating elephants were often extrapolated from data in horses, with no pharmacokinetic information on the specific agents used in elephant species. In this pharmacokinetic study, six adult captive Asian elephants (5 female, 1 male castrate) were administered a 0.015 mg/kg dose of butorphanol by both i.v. and i.m. routes. A complete crossover design was used with a 3-wk washout period between treatments. Serial blood samples were collected immediately prior to butorphanol administration and at 5, 10, 20, and 40 min and 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, and 24 h after administration. The butorphanol analysis was performed using a validated liquid chromatography–mass spectrophotometric assay with a limit of quantitation of 0.025 ng/ml. The mean Cmax after i.m. administration was 7.9 ng/ml, with a corresponding Tmax of 40 min and t½ of 7.1 h. After i.v. administration, the mean Vdss was 1.4 L/kg and the mean Clp was 0.26 L/kg/h. Mean i.m. bioavailability was 37%. The results indicate that butorphanol used at 0.015 mg/kg i.m. or i.v. could be useful in elephants when given for pain control.
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