Evaluating the Use of Diazepam in Stranded Dolphins and Porpoises for Husbandry and Veterinary Purposes

Document: Article
Abstract: We evaluated the use of diazepam (Valium®) during the rehabilitation of odontocetes (dolphins and porpoises) to facilitate husbandry and for veterinary purposes, by analyzing detailed records from a period of 14 years of the treatment of 16 stranded individuals: harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), white-beaked dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris), a common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), and a striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba). Diazepam was used occasionally (once per case or for a few days at a time) to facilitate husbandry, including for managing stressful and transitional circumstances and during transport. It was also used occasionally (once per case) for veterinary purposes, such as to reduce stress or to facilitate x-ray scanning, gastroscopy, blood sampling, or wound treatment. Diazepam was found to be effective as an anti-anxiety drug, to cause drowsiness (i.e., reduce activity levels), as a muscle relaxant, and as an appetite stimulant. The doses used were similar for husbandry and veterinary purposes (0.03 to 0.44 mg/kg body weight), and the drug was administered almost exclusively orally (via fish) or via intramuscular injection.
Key Words: diazepam, Valium®, rehabilitation, standings, stress, common dolphin, harbor porpoise, striped dolphin, white-beaked dolphin, odontocetes
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1578/AM.49.1.2023.94
Page Numbers: 94-103

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