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Anaesthesia in exotics part 1: small mammals

02 March 2024
17 mins read
Volume 15 · Issue 2
Figure 10. Porphyrin staining around the eyes of a rat due to inability to groom properly.
Figure 10. Porphyrin staining around the eyes of a rat due to inability to groom properly.


Anaesthesia in exotic species is often viewed as high risk and many nurses may be apprehensive to perform it. However, with careful preparation and monitoring techniques, safe anaesthesia of exotics is possible. This article looks at the principles of anaesthesia in small mammal exotics, and aims to instil confidence in the veterinary nurse to be an advocate for their exotic animal patients.

Historically, small mammals have been viewed as high-risk patients under anaesthesia. Small patient size and associated difficulties with this, preparation of equipment and the patient, monitoring techniques and recovery, are covered in depth in this article, in the hope of providing a comprehensive overview of the perioperative role of the veterinary nurse when performing anaesthesia in small mammals. This article is part one of a series of articles designed to provide an outline of the principles of anaesthesia in exotics and instil confidence in the veterinary nurse to be an advocate for their exotic animal patients.

All equipment should be pre-prepared for the procedure in question, in order to maintain focus on patient monitoring once anaesthesia has begun. For very small mammalian species, surgical loupes – a magnifying head piece – can be useful to better visualise the surgical site and enable the veterinary surgeon to carry out procedures on a much smaller scale, with greater precision (Figure 1).

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