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Veterinary Practice

Caution - Badgers!
Get expert help before you deal with an injured badger! Ideally, find some-one who has been trained to handle a badger.
Approach every badger with extreme care - even one which is apparently comatose may move suddenly! If the badger appears unconscious, use a stout stick and carefully prod the sensitive areas near the eyes and mouth, to check that it really is unconscious. Stay out of reach of its teeth or claws and remember that badgers may inflict severe bites! Keep stout stick between you and the badgers mouth, so it can bite the stick before it can bite you. NEVER pick up a badger by the tail. If the badger struggles, it will be able to bite or scratch you anyway; and you may end up dislocating its tail too.
Caution - Veterinary Advice!
These notes are provided ONLY as a rough and ready guide to students who are learning about veterinary practice, wild animals and badgers.
This information on this page is intended ONLY as an approximate guide to what may happen in one particular circumstance.
It does not constitute advice for Veterinary Practices.
Badgerland are not qualified in the field of veterinary medicine.
Reference must always be made to the BSAVA manual of Wildlife Casualty Care for up-to-date advice.
Some of the following information has been extracted from:
Other sources have also been used.


One of the best ways to restrain a badger for a short period is to use a so-called crush cage. This may be needed when it has been decided that the administration of subcutaneous or intramuscular injections is necessary.

Alternatively, it may be possible to use a combination of "pig-boards", blankets and a stout broom to immobilise a badger against a wall or in a corner. The blanket is useful as it can provide a limited benefit to mitigate the effects of biting or clawing; and it can be placed over the badgers head; and the badger will tend to be more subdued in the dark.

A clean blanket will also be useful to place over a cage, as the badger will be happier to go into the cage if the cage is in darkness.

The Law

So far as vets and wildlife rescuers are concerned, there is no provision for euthanising a badger because no-one locally has the "correct facilities" to look after it. Whilst euthanising a badger with a serious injury is allowed as an act of mercy; euthanising a badger with a non-serious injury is not (see The Protection of Badgers Act 1992).

If in doubt, contact either the Badger Trust or Secret World before you administer a lethal drug. Both these organisations have extensive experience of treating, rehabilitating and releasing badgers back into the wild; and they both follow an excellent Code of Conduct concerned with wild badgers.

It would be a terrible shame to extinguish the life of a well-loved wild animal, when a single telephone call might have found a solution.


Badgers are normally given a General anaesthetic for examination.

Administration of Drugs

Because of the risks of being bitten or clawed, non-comatose adult badgers are often given drugs by injection (instead of by inhalation). This can be done with the badger in a crush cage. Once administration has taken place the badger should be left in a quiet dark place to allow the drugs to take effect.

Young badger cubs may be more amenable to being given drugs by inhalation.

Sedation and Anaesthesia

Veterinary anaesthetics are designed to provide anaesthesia for a wide variety of species. The methods and doses used are often extrapolated from a "standard" animal species (such as a primate or a cat).

In extrapolating dose rates remember:

  • higher dose rates may be required for very nervous / excited / aggressive animals who may initially over-ride the effects of anaesthesia
  • smaller animals with a higher metabolic rate may require proportionally higher dose rates
  • larger animals with a lower metabolic rate may require proportionally lower dose rates
  • collapsed, shocked and/or dehydrated animals may required lower dose rates

The skills required for successful sedation and anaesthesia are based on good knowledge and useful, recent experience. There is not, unfortunately, a single "formula" which can be certain to work every time. In very many cases; the exact combination of anaesthetics, doses and timings may reflect the veterinarians clinical judgement and experience almost as much as any "text-book" recommendations.

General Information

In the UK, general anaesthesia in small and zoo animal practice is often a combination of intramuscular medetomidine and ketamine.

If there is a need for additional "top-up" doses of injectable anaesthetics, the following should be considered:

  • If a mask can be applied without excessive stress on the animal, mask it down with either isoflurane or halothane is often the best option.
  • It is not desirable if initial stable anaesthesia is achieved only after several doses and the first drugs are then wearing off. It is very easy to overdose the animal in this situation.
  • If three injections are not effective - assess whether it would be better to stop the procedure to allow the anaesthesia to wear off and repeat at a later date using higher initial doses.
  • When increasing dosages, give very careful consideration to the side-effects of the drugs and the availability of reversal agents.
  • More control over the depth of anaesthesia may be possible with the use of an intravenous injection.
  • If a top-up dose is needed, consider:
  1. If there is little effect on the animal after 15 minutes (it is alert and responsive), consider giving a second full dose
  2. If the animal is clearly affected but still active after 15 minutes, consider giving a 3/4 dose.
  3. If there is some degree of anaesthesia, but a deeper level is required, consider giving 1/2 dose.
  4. Beyond that - use best judgement.


Suggested protocols for badger sedation and general anaesthesia include the following.

General Anaesthesia

For general anaesthesia the following protocol has been used efficiently and safely:

  • Medetomidine 40 g/kg bodyweight plus
    Ketamine 7.5 mg/kg bodyweight intramuscular.
  • The effects of Medetomidine are normally reversed by injection of the agent Atipamezole, unless otherwise indicated.

General Anaesthesia for Examination

  • Ketamine 7.5-10mg/kg plus
    Medetomidine 100g/kg
    provides more relaxation than Ketamine alone but profound respiratory depression.
  • Ketamine 20-30mg/kg plus
    diazepam or xylazine at less than 2mg/kg.
  • Isoflurane may be administered carefully by anaesthetic face mask in a collapsed animal.


  • Ketamine 10-20mg/kg intramuscular for immobilisation, prior to maintenance of general anaesthesia using inhalation anaesthetics.
  • Combination of ketamine with a sedative (e.g. benzodiazepine, alpha-2 agonist) is generally preferable to the use of ketamine alone.
  • Combination of ketamine with a benzodiazepine may be preferable to its combination with an alpha-2 agonist in sick or collapsed individuals because of the more limited cardiovascular depression associated with the former agent.
  • Gaseous general anaesthetic agents (such as isoflurane) may be administered by mask to anaesthetise cubs.
  • Intubation is straightforward and recommended.
  • Isoflurane or halothane may be used to prolong general anaesthesia following the use of injectable anaesthetic agents.


  • The length of starvation prior to induction of general anaesthesia should be appropriate for the species in question and the likelihood of regurgitation. Clinical judgement should be used as to the pros and cons of starvation in an emergency situation.

Rehab Advice

Badger cubs should never be reared alone. There are always orphaned cubs at rehab centres, and all cubs should be reared in groups with minimum human contact. They should be released carefully and gradually, in an area with no local badgers. However the site must be suitable for badgers, good food supply, banks for digging setts, etc, and if badgers are not present you must ask why. Are badgers persecuted in this area? If badger cubs are allowed to dig a sett in an enclosure, they will treat that sett as home after enclosure is removed or opened.

Adult casualties. Must be returned to location where found. A badger released in another badger family's territory may be attacked, bitten, driven away or killed. Seek advice of local badger group or rehab centre.

Badgers being moved from one part of the country to another must have been tested clear for TB, and have a certificate to that effect.


Medetomidine is also known as Domitor and is manufactured by Pfizer Limited.


Ketamine (also known as Ketaset or ketamine hydrochloride) provides veterinarians with a rapid-acting anaesthetic for use in cats for restraint, or as a sole anaesthetic agent for diagnostic or minor surgeries. Ketaset is a non-narcotic and non-barbiturate. In contrast to other anaesthetic agents, Ketaset maintains protective reflexes, such as coughing and swallowing, under anaesthesia, greatly enhancing assurance of a patient airway. An important side-effect is the fact that respiratory depression may occur following high doses. There may also be adverse reactions including: emesis, salivation, vocalization, erratic recovery and prolonged recovery, spastic jerking movements, convulsions, muscular tremors, hypertonicity, opisthotonos, dyspnea, and cardiac arrest.

Ketamine is manufactured by Fort Dodge Animal Health.


Because of the risks of humans abusing Ketamine, Medetomidine or any veterinary anaesthetic or sedative, extreme care should be taken about it's storage, usage and supply. It should not be stored, held, used, administered or supplied to or by any person not duly authorised.

Badger Volunteers?
The WildCRU at Oxford University often need people to help do badger surveys. You can work with some of the best badger researchers in the UK AND learn about our favourite wild mammal.
For more info, click Jobs at the WildCRU.