Food Animal Drugs

Camelid Analgesia, Sedation and Anesthesia

Sedating and anesthetizing camelids is similar to that for small ruminants and cattle.

Accessing camelid veins is a bit tricky. Most drugs do work better iv but it is always nice to have an intramuscular plan ready to go. Llama lullaby is designed for intramuscular use. Camelids fit into the “minor species” category so withholding is needed but you have leeway in drug choices.


  • Flunixin 1.1mg/kg IV q 12 hours (oral flunixin has low bioavailability and is not recommended)
  • Meloxicam 1mg/kg PO q 24-48 hrs
  • Ketoprofen 1mg/kg iv or im – less effective but can be given im


Camelids vary in how they respond to people and drugs. When upset, they tend to lie down (kush) so attempting standing chemical restraint is usually not worth the effort.

Standing/light recumbent sedation

  • 0.5cc butorphanol ( per alpaca) or 1cc butorphanol (per llama) IM or IV if you can restrain. [In my hands, this does very little to sedate them; they usually just stand there and look at me. Per others, it works if you blindfold them.]
  • xylazine 0.025-0.03 mg /kg iv
  • xylazine 0.2 mg/kg IM and butorphanol 0.1 mg/kg IM for standing sedation and surgery
  • Benzodiazepene + butorphanol (0.1 – 0.2 mg/kg IV; 0.2 – 0.4 mg/kg IM) provides sedation. Use morphine (0.5 mg/kg IM) instead of butorphanol to provide analgesia

Recumbent sedation

  • xylazine 0.4-0.6 mg/kg im combined with ketamine 1.1 mg/kg iv or 2-5 mg/kg im) – recumbency for 30 minutes. Can add butorphonal 0.05-0.1 mg/kg iv/im or morphine 0.05-0.1 mg/kg iv/im for minor surgical procedures. A local block will permit more painful procedures to be performed (castration, etc).
  • llama lullaby – recipe below for recumbent sedation

Llama lullaby

To one bottle of ketamine (10 ml of 100 mg/ml) add 1 ml of 100 mg/ml xylazine and 1 ml of 10 mg/ml butorphanol. The sedation should last 40-50 min procedures. *Dose: 1ml/40# alpacas, 1ml/50# in llamas. Give IM

More specific doses of ket stuns for camelids:

xylazine 0.22-0.55 mg/kg + ketamine 3-5 mg/kg + butorphanol 0.08-0.11 mg/kg im

Camelid GA

Camelids do ferment but have a much smaller fermentation vat than cows. Once they reach about 4 months of age, we generally hold them off feed 12-18 hours while still giving them free choice water.

Camelids can regurgitate and aspirate so the head position should be managed to ensure any regurgitation drains out of the mouth and not back down the throat, similar to small ruminants.  As soon as the procedure is done, the animal can be propped into sternal recumbency with the head supported until the animal can hold it up. Camelids have a tendency to coil their necks in all sorts of wrong ways. This may not cause any real issues but we usually sit with them until they can hold their heads up.

Sick camelids tend to develop metabolic issues after anesthesia so should be carefully monitored.

The alpha2 agents (xylazine, detomidine, romifidine) may be reversed in camelids but yohimbine is not currently available and tolazoline has significant side effects. Most practitioners use atipamezole and cautiously.

PS : It is really hard to open the mouth wide enough for intubation if the halter is still on. Just saying.



Pain management in small ruminants and camelids: Analgesic agents.Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract . 2021 Mar;37(1):1-16.

New World Camelids, UTenn, Tom Doherty, 2011

Chemical restraint, anesthesia and analgesia for camelids, Abrahamsen, VCNA 2009

Camelid anesthesia and drugs– Merck Manual

Food Animal General Anesthesia Protocols

Veterinary Techniques for Llamas and Alpacas Chapter 7 Sedation and Tranquilization


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Large Animal Surgery - Supplemental Notes Copyright © by Erin Malone, DVM, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.