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Nonhuman Primates


Terri Parrott

, DVM, St. Charles Veterinary Hospital

Last full review/revision Jan 2020 | Content last modified Feb 2020
Topic Resources

This overview presents a working knowledge of the common families of nonhuman primates maintained in captivity. More species than ever are now promulgated and maintained in captivity. Prosimians such as Lemur catta (ring-tailed lemur) and New World monkeys such as Cebus albifrons (white-fronted capuchin) are commonly encountered in zoological and private practice.

The nonhuman primate species most widely used in research include:

  • macaques

    • Macaca mulatta (rhesus monkey)

    • M fascicularis (cynomolgus monkey)

    • M nemestrina (pig-tailed monkey)

  • some African species

    • Chlorocebus aethiops (African green monkey, vervet monkey)

    • Papio spp (baboons)

  • some South American species

    • Saimiri sciureus (squirrel monkey)

    • Aotus trivirgatus (owl monkey)

Nonhuman Primates

Saguinus spp (marmosets) and Callithrix spp (tamarins, marmosets), also of South American origin, have had more limited use in research but are common in the pet trade.

Increased restrictions on exportation or reduced availability of nonhuman primates from countries of origin have led to decreased importation. Importation of nonhuman primates into the USA is prohibited except for scientific, educational, and exhibition purposes.

Nonhuman primates are natural hosts for a variety of infectious agents, many of which are zoonotic, and are also susceptible to many human infectious diseases, such as measles and tuberculosis. Consequently, newly acquired nonhuman primates should be quarantined for 1–3 months before research use or introduction into established colonies, to permit adequate evaluation of their health status and to allow adaptation to the laboratory or zoo environment.

The basic principle of quarantine is to completely isolate each group of animals and not mix animals from different shipments or sources without restarting the quarantine period. Nonhuman primates imported into the USA must undergo a 31-day minimum primary import quarantine in a facility registered with the CDC. Imported animals that die or become severely ill and require euthanasia during this quarantine period must be necropsied and the deaths reported to the CDC, Division of Quarantine.

In clinical, research, and zoological institutions, any new nonhuman primate should be tested for tuberculosis, with a routine fecal examination performed at the same time. Depending on the species, routine tests such as those for cytomegalovirus, herpes simiae, and herpes simplex (1, 2, etc) also can be run at this time. (See table: Viral Diseases of Nonhuman Primates.)


Nonhuman Primate Therapeutics a

Antibiotics and Antifungals


11 mg/kg/day, IM or SC; 11 mg/kg, PO, twice daily; 62.5 mg, PO, twice daily (lemurs)


25–50 mg/kg, PO, twice daily for 10 days (gastroenteritis and inflammatory bowel disease); 15 mg/kg slow iv twice daily for anaerobic infections


40 mg/kg, PO, once, then 20 mg/kg/day, PO, for 5 days


25 mg/kg, IM or IV, twice daily for 10 days


50–100 mg/kg, IM or IV, twice daily


2.5 mg/kg, PO, twice daily for one day, then 2.5 mg/kg/day, PO


2–15 mg/kg/day, PO


5 mg/kg, IM or PO, once to twice daily for 10 days


10–20 mg/kg PO, twice daily for monkeys and apes


30–50 mg/kg, IM or PO, two to three times daily


3–5 mg/kg, IM or IV, twice daily for 5-7 days

Penicillin G potassium + penicillin G benzathine

20,000–60,000 U/kg, IM, once to twice daily (higher dosage in lemurs)


15–50 mg/kg, PO or IM, twice daily; sulfamethoxazole at 20 mg/kg, PO, twice daily (higher dosages for lemurs)

Amoxicillin trihydrate and clavulanic potassium


7-13 mg/kg, PO, three times daily in monkeys

13 mg/kg, IV, three times daily in monkeys


50 mg/kg, IV or IM, three times daily in monkeys


5 mg/kg, PO, once to twice daily for 10 days for candidiasis in monkeys


20 mg/kg, PO, once daily for 30–60 days for dermatophytosis in monkeys and marmosets


100,000 U to 200,000 U, PO, three to four times daily for candidiasis in marmosets and monkeys


5 mg/kg, PO, twice daily for 21–30 days for aspergillosis in monkeys



50 mg/kg/day, PO, for 5 days, repeated in 2 weeks


200–300 mcg/kg, SC, IM, or PO, repeated in 14 days


22 mg/kg/day, PO, for 3 days, repeated in 14 days (for Giardia sp)


30–50 mg/kg, PO, twice daily for 5–10 days for Giardia in monkeys and marmosets


5 mg/kg, IM, PO, or SC, once (15–20 mg/kg, PO or IM, for some cestodes; 40 mg/kg, PO or IM, for trematodes)

Pyrantel pamoate

10 mg/kg, PO, for nematodes, most New World monkeys, prosimians, and marmosets


1–2 mg/kg, PO, once daily for treatment of toxoplasmosis in conjunction with other antimalarial drugs

Start with 2 mg/kg for 3 days, then 1 mg/kg for 28 days


100 mg/kg, PO, with pyrimethamine for 28 days


30 mg/kg, PO, twice daily for 21 days for toxoplasmosis and Encephalitozoon with other antimalarial drugs and supplement with folic acid


100 mg/kg, PO, once, repeated in 14 days (owl monkeys); 50 mg/kg/day, PO, for 2 days (Strongyloides); 75–100 mg/kg/day, PO, for 10 days (Entamoeba, Balantidium) in great apes


10–20 mg/kg, PO, for 10 days for Balantidium, Cryptosporidium, and Entamoeba in both monkeys and marmosets as well as Old World primates

Anesthetics, Analgesics, and Behavior

Ketamine hydrochloride

10–15 mg/kg, IM, for restraint only; ketamine (15 mg/kg) with diazepam (1 mg/kg), IM, or ketamine (8 mg/kg) with midazolam (0.2–1 mg/kg), IM, for additional muscle relaxation


2 mg/kg/day, IV or IM

Inhalant gas (isoflurane, Sevoflurane

1%–2%; 1 MAC for sevoflurane maintenance of surgical plane of anesthesia

Flunixin meglumine (analgesic)

0.5– 2 mg/kg, IV, IM, or SC, twice daily


5–10 mg/kg, PO, four times daily for monkeys and marmosets for mild analgesia and pyrexia. May be used in conjunction with ibuprofen PO


10-20 mg/kg, PO, twice daily for inflammation and pain

May be used in conjunction with acetaminophen


200 mg/animal, PO, once to twice daily for chimpanzee


0.2 mg/kg initial dose followed by 0.1 mg/kg, PO or SC


0.005–0.01 mg/kg, SC, IM, or IV, two to four times daily (great apes)

0.015–0.02 mg/kg, IM, SC, three to four times daily (New World primates)

Butorphanol tartrate

0.02 mg/kg, SC, four times daily (New World primates); 0.02 mg/kg (not to exceed 0.3 mg total), IM (chimpanzees); may cause profound respiratory depression


As a constant rate infusion, 1–30 mcg/kg, IV, prosimian/monkeys

Monitor closely for respiratory depression


40 mcg/kg, IM, for anesthesia in combination with ketamine at 20–30 mcg/kg, IM (lemurs) or at 2–6 mg/kg, IM (macaques and baboons)


Dose at same range as the dose of dexmedetomidine for reversal of the effects IM


0.05–0.1 mg/kg, IV (slow) or IM: 0.1–0.5 mg/kg, IM (with ketamine helps prevent seizures in lemurs); 5 mg/animal, IM (chimpanzees)


1 mg/kg, IV, for seizures in monkeys and marmosets

May also be given IM or PO


0.5–8.0 mg/kg, PO

Oxymorphone (opioid analgesic)

0.025–0.075 mg/kg, IM or IV, every 4–6 hours (New World primates); 0.15 mg/kg, SC, IM, or IV, every 4–6 hours (Old World primates); 1–1.5 mg/animal, SC or IM, every 4 hours (chimpanzees)


2.5–5 mg/kg, IV bolus induction, 0.3–0.4 mg/kg/min constant-rate infusion (baboons and macaques); 7–8 mg/kg, IV bolus (marmosets, larger nonhuman primates); 1–2 mg/kg, IV bolus (chimpanzees), followed by infusion to effect; oxygen support always available


3–5 mg/kg, IM, for restraint only (great apes), severe ataxia noted during recovery: 1–2.5 mg/kg, IM (New World primates); 1.5–3 mg/kg, IM (macaques)

a All are extra-label uses.

Many of the nonhuman primates seen in clinical practice are infants and are immunocompromised; personal protective equipment should be worn at all times while handling and during examinations. These animals are highly susceptible to common cold and influenza viruses as well as streptococcal infections and should be isolated from people with upper respiratory signs.

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