Two anesthetic protocols in adult giraffe were compared by retrospective study. Thirteen anesthesia records for medetomidine-ketamine (MK) and seven for medetomidine-ketamine with a potent opioid (MKO) were evaluated for differences in demographic, behavioral, drug, and respiratory parameters. Giraffe stood significantly more quickly with MKO vs MK though MK animals were physically restrained to preclude premature standing as part of normal recovery practices (5.5 min vs 21.4 min, P = 0.01). Regurgitation was recorded in 5/13 and resedation in 4/13 MK animals. The range of values for blood lactate was higher in MKO (5.18–11.25 mM/L) than in MK giraffe (0.78–6.08 mM/L). Despite limitations of a retrospective study, both MK and MKO giraffe anesthesia protocols exhibit benefits and side effects. Awareness and management of these factors will improve outcomes until standardized, prospective studies of giraffe immobilization offer more comprehensive guidance on protocol selection.