Murdoch vet pioneers anaesthetising techniques for camels

November 24, 2011

A Murdoch University vet has developed safe anaesthetising techniques for 550kg racing camels in the United Arab Emirates.

Senior veterinary registrar Dr Peter Gray, who teaches and researches the anaesthesia and critical care of large animals at Murdoch, had already been involved in setting up a state-of-the-art camel surgical facility at the Scientific Centre for Racing Camels in the city of Al Ain in the UAE.

Enlisted by his old university friend Dr Alex Tinson, head vet at the centre, Dr Gray spent seven days in October training Dr Tinson and his staff in anaesthetising racing camels at the brand new facility. And because there is almost no scientific research into the desert-dwelling creatures, Dr Gray and the team had to develop the complicated techniques from scratch.

“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,” explained Dr Gray.

“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.

“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. We’ve kept in touch since the trip and they’ve reported back on how the techniques are going. I’d love to go back to keep researching these incredible creatures.”

Dr Gray’s involvement with the Scientific Centre for Racing Camels began a few years ago when Dr Tinson was asked to design the surgical facility by centre-owner Sheikh Khalifa Ben Zayed al Nahyan, the President of UAE.

The old university friends came up with a design based on the large animal surgical facilities at Murdoch. Dr Gray and others from the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences also helped Dr Tinson to come up with equipment lists for the facility.

Dr 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.

“Very little research has been done into this animal so Dr Tinson and his team are regularly making fascinating discoveries and developing innovations thanks to the backing they have from the Sheikh,” said Dr Gray.

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