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Keywords:

  • Diclofenac;
  • Scavenging birds;
  • Species sensitivity;
  • Vultures

Abstract

The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac is extremely toxic to Old World Gyps vultures (median lethal dose ∼0.1–0.2 mg/kg), evoking visceral gout, renal necrosis, and mortality within a few days of exposure. Unintentional secondary poisoning of vultures that fed upon carcasses of diclofenac-treated livestock decimated populations in the Indian subcontinent. Because of the widespread use of diclofenac and other cyclooxygenase-2 inhibiting drugs, a toxicological study was undertaken in turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) as an initial step in examining sensitivity of New World scavenging birds. Two trials were conducted entailing oral gavage of diclofenac at doses ranging from 0.08 to 25 mg/kg body weight. Birds were observed for 7 d, blood samples were collected for plasma chemistry (predose and 12, 24, and 48 h and 7 d postdose), and select individuals were necropsied. Diclofenac failed to evoke overt signs of toxicity, visceral gout, renal necrosis, or elevate plasma uric acid at concentrations greater than 100 times the estimated median lethal dose reported for Gyps vultures. For turkey vultures receiving 8 or 25 mg/kg, the plasma half-life of diclofenac was estimated to be 6 h, and it was apparently cleared after several days as no residues were detectable in liver or kidney at necropsy. Differential sensitivity among avian species is a hallmark of cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors, and despite the tolerance of turkey vultures to diclofenac, additional studies in related scavenging species seem warranted.