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Assessment of ketamine and medetomidine anaesthesia in the domestic rabbit

Lookup NU author(s): Hannah Orr, Dr Johnny RoughanORCiD, Emeritus Professor Paul FlecknellORCiD


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Objective: To study the effects of ketamine and two doses of medetomidine administered by two routes of injection in a genetically diverse population of rabbits. Study design: Prospective, randomized, clinical trial. Animals: One hundred and five domestic rabbits of mixed breed, sex and age. Materials and methods: Rabbits undergoing orchiectomy or ovariohysterectomy received ketamine (15 mg kg-1) combined with medetomidine at 0.25 or 0.5 mg kg -1, by subcutaneous (SC) or intramuscular (IM) injection. Anaesthesia was supplemented with 1.5-2% isoflurane when signs of regular jaw movements and/or slight limb twitching indicated inadequate anaesthesia. Heart and respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, end-tidal carbon dioxide concentration and rectal temperature were monitored at several time points. Duration of surgical anaesthesia and anaesthesia time were measured. At completion of surgery, atipamezole (1.0 or 0.5 mg kg-1, IM or SC) was administered. Statistical analyses: MANOVA was used to compare variables over time between males and females, anaesthetic doses and routes of drug administration. Results: All reflexes were lost significantly more rapidly after IM drug administration (p < 0.05). The times (in minutes) from drug injection to loss of reflexes for the respective groups were: righting reflex: 6.3 (15.0 + 0.25, SC), 5.5 (15.0 + 0.5, SC), 2.9 (15.0 + 0.25, IM) and 2.3 (15.0 + 0.5, IM); ear pinch: 9.2, 8.5, 4.8, 3.6: pedal withdrawal: 12.8, 10.4, 6.6, 5.2. Heart and respiratory rates during surgery did not differ between groups, however the highest end-tidal CO2 concentration during surgery was significantly affected by dose, with the highest concentration occurring in group 15.0 + 0.5 IM. The number of animals requiring isoflurane tended to decrease with increasing dose of anaesthetic and significantly more females required supplementation than males (p < 0.05). Recovery from anaesthesia (return of righting reflex) was not significantly different between dose groups (p > 0.1) but was more rapid in animals given IM atipamezole (13.6 + 13 versus 21 + 17, p = 0.037). No anaesthetic-related mortality occurred and all but three animals recovered uneventfully. Five animals were killed whilst under anaesthesia because of unrelated disease. Conclusion and clinical relevance: Ketamine-medetomidine combinations reliably produced surgical anaesthesia in domestic rabbits that could easily be deepened for brief periods with low concentrations of isoflurane. Subcutaneous administration was better tolerated, but the speed of induction was slower compared with IM injection. Atipamezole was an effective antagonist and produced most rapid effects when administered IM. © Association of Veterinary Anaesthetists, 2005.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Orr HE, Roughan JV, Flecknell PA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia

Year: 2005

Volume: 32

Issue: 5

Pages: 271-279

ISSN (print): 1467-2987

ISSN (electronic): 1467-2995

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-2995.2005.00211.x

PubMed id: 16135208


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