Camel anaesthesia now safer, easier

Murdoch University veterinarian and specialist anaesthetist Peter Gray has assisted in the development of a safe anaesthetic technique for racing camels in the United Arab Emirates.
Gray worked with an old university friend of his, Alex Tinson, who is the head vet at the Scientific Centre for Racing Camels in the city of Al Ain in the UAE, to develop a method for safely anaesthetising the 550kg animals.

Gray is a senior veterinary registrar at Murdoch University where he teaches and researches the anaesthesia and critical care of large animals. The state of the art camel surgical facility in Al Ain has recently been upgraded, and Gray spent some time working there during 2011 to help develop the anaesthetic protocols for camels as there is almost no scientific research into the desert-dwelling creatures.

Gray explained that anaesthetising camels poses many challenges to veterinarians, “Anaesthetising such a large animal is a huge logistical task and developing the right techniques were incredibly important because these racing camels are very valued creatures in Arab culture”.

“Not only did we have to put the animal to sleep safely taking into consideration its unique anatomy and size but we had to figure out the easiest way to move the camel from the floor to the surgical table and then into the recovery room. Because of the length of the camel’s neck and its habit of regurgitating food, we even had to develop a safe recovery position”, he said.

“At Murdoch we move anaesthetised horses around the facility by hoisting them up by their legs and we did the same thing for the camels. We managed to anaesthetise 10 camels in seven days so it was all pretty full on but still a very fulfilling visit. It means Dr Tinson and his team can now perform more complicated surgeries on the camels”.

Gray became involved with the camel centre several years ago when he assisted Tinson in developing the design of the centre. Gray said he hoped the collaboration could continue and more Murdoch researchers could visit the facility to aid research into a number of different areas including nutrition, disease, and embryo transfer.
Phil Tucak