Effects of isoflurane anesthesia on the hematologic values of rehabilitated wild owls

Kyra J. Berg, Julia K. Whittington, Megan K. Watson, Kelly Wiggen, Amanda Blalock, Mark A. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Isoflurane anesthesia is commonly used for owls when they are being rehabilitated to minimize stress during treatments and procedures, as well as to ensure caretaker safety. However, the effects of isoflurane anesthesia on the hematologic response of owls are not known. To investigate the effects of isoflurane anesthesia on the hematology of owls, 3 phases of investigation were performed on the subject animals: 1) single, short manual- versus single, short isoflurane-restraint episodes (n = 12; 38%); 2) a single, prolonged isoflurane episode (n = 10; 31%); and 3) serial, short isoflurane episodes (n = 10; 31%). All owls were classified as adult, and the sex for most individuals was unknown. Twelve owls (38%) were included in phase 1: 5 great horned owls (Bubo virginianus; 42%), 2 eastern screech owls (Megascops asio; 17%), and 5 barred owls (Strix varia; 42%). A separate cohort of 10 novel owls (31%) were selected for inclusion in both phases 2 and 3: 4 great horned owls (40%), 2 eastern screech owls (20%), 2 barred owls (20%), 1 barn owl (Tyto alba; 10%), and 1 snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus; 10%). For each anesthetic episode, blood was collected within 3 minutes of capture and in 15-minute intervals according to the duration of the procedure. Phase 2 had additional blood collections with the patient awake at 2 and 24 hours after time 0 blood collection, whereas phase 3 had an additional blood collection at 24 hours after time 0 blood collection. Hematologic analyses included packed cell volume, total solids, total white blood cell count, heterophil to lymphocyte ratio, and absolute heterophil, lymphocyte, monocyte, eosinophil, and basophil counts. Total white blood cell count decreased significantly during phase 1; packed cell volume decreased significantly during phases 2 and 3; total solids decreased significantly in phase 2; phase 2 demonstrated a lymphopenia with a concurrent decrease in the heterophil to lymphocyte ratio; and phase 3 demonstrated a heteropenia and significant changes in the eosinophil count. All hematologic changes noted in the study were within appropriate reference intervals for the owls but do suggest that there are physiologic consequences of restraining and anesthetizing these avian patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-380
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of avian medicine and surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Strigiformes
  • anesthesia
  • avian
  • hematology
  • isoflurane
  • owl

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Small Animals

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