Research into the best medicines for koalas and other Australian wildlife species

I am a veterinary researcher at The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia. I am the only researcher that investigates the best medicines for koalas. Koalas are not like dogs and cats….. due to koalas having a unique eucalyptus diet, so they have a different physiology to most other species. So the medicines used for koalas are sometimes not the same for cats and dogs. All funds will go to supporting research to ensure the best medicines for koalas. This research will be reported on this blog for all wildlife zoos and hospitals to use. A sincere thank you for your donation. Dr Merran Govendir Associate Professor in Veterinary Pharmacology, The University of Sydney, Sydney. New South Wales, Australia

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My working life is undertaking research into those medicines that help koalas.  I work as a researcher and teacher of veterinary students at The University of Sydney, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The bush-fires we are having here in many states of Australia have-been, and still are, just devastating. They are affecting so much of our Australian country side in many states in this country – New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and earlier in the year Queensland. These fires will have long-lasting effects on our bush-land and wildlife for many years.

Most of our unique native species have been severely damaged by bush-fires.  So many people living in Australia and around the world have truly been alarmed by the destruction to our beautiful native bush-land and our animals.

For years I have been working on finding good medicines for koalas.  I don’t have to tell any reader of this blog that koalas are unique.  As most people know, koalas only eat Eucalyptus leaves. Thus they have a very unique metabolism that has been especially adapted to break down the eucalyptus leaves. Because of this ability to break down eucalyptus leaves which are naturally toxic to most species, they have differences in their bodies compared to other species and these differences mean that they break down medicines differently to other species of animals. Thus they can have trouble breaking down some medicines that are given to dogs and cats (whom are primarily meat eaters) and even other animals such as horses and cows that eat grasses!

I am the only researcher that looks at finding the best medicines for koalas. We have found that when koalas are administered an analgesic such as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) which is given for pain, the koala eliminates this from their body in just a few hours. For example  when administered with a NSAID called meloxicam, the koala will eliminate this NSAID in two hours, where as if meloxicam is administered to a dog, the dog will eliminate this drug in 24 hours and about 13 hours in people. What this mean is that NSAID analgesic have a short duration of providing analgesia in the koala and a much longer duration of analgesic action in the dog and cat.  So over the past few years I have been investigating better analgesics for koalas.  I have demonstrated that the opioid tramadol when injected at a concentration of 4 mg/kg when injected under the skin of koalas should provide analgesia for about 24 hours. This information that I have generated has helped some Australian wildlife hospitals to help those koalas injured in the bush-fires.

Merran

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Image courtesy of Taronga Zoo, Mosman, NSW