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Anaesthesia with ketamine/medetomidine in the rabbit: influence of route of administration and the effect of combination with butorphanol

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


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Objective To compare the characteristics of anaesthesia induced with ketamine/medetomidine administered by the subcutaneous and intramuscular :routes and to assess the effects of the addition of butorphanol to this combination. Study design Prospective randomised study. Animals Six female New Zealand White rabbits Methods Rabbits were given one of four combinations of ketamine and medetomidine (K/M) either Subcutaneously (SC) or intramuscularly (IM) on four successive occasions with a 7-day interval between treatments. The dose combinations were: 15/0.25 mg kg(-1) SC: 15/0.25 mg kg(-1) IM; 15/0.5 mg kg(-1) SC, and 15/0.25 mg kg(-1) together with 0.4 mg kg(-1) butorphanol (K/M/B) SC. The effects of anaesthesia on arterial blood gas values and cardiovascular variables were recorded at predetermined time points. Toe and ear pinch reflexes were judged to determine the duration of surgical anaesthesia. Loss of the righting reflex was used to measure the duration of sleep time. Analyses used repeated measures analysis of variance. Results All groups lost the righting reflex and car pinch response. Three animals in the groups that received K/M alone lost their toe pinch reflex, whereas four lost this reflex when given K/M/B. Time of onset of loss of the righting, toe and ear pinch reflexes did not differ significantly among the groups. The higher dose combination of medetomidine with ketamine and the combination of K/M/B produced a greater duration of loss of the ear pinch response than the lower dose of K/M administered by either route. No significant differences were found among the groups in the duration of loss of the toe pinch reflex. All animals developed a moderate bradycardia (mean heart rate <166 beats minute(-1)) and moderate hypoxaemia (mean PaO2 < 6.0 kPa). Animals given butorphanol showed the greatest reduction in respiratory rate (31 +/- 13 breaths minute(-1), p < 0.05) but this was not reflected in any significant differences in arterial PCO2, PO2 or pH among the groups. Conclusions Administration of K/M by the SC route produced equivalent effects in comparison to intramuscular administration, The addition of butorphanol increased the duration of anaesthesia, but produced a slight increase in the degree of respiratory depression. All dose rates resulted in hypoxaemia so oxygen should be administered when these combinations are used in rabbits. Clinical relevance Subcutaneous administration is both technically simpler and may cause less discomfort to the animal than IM injection, and so is preferred. The combination of K/M with butorphanol has relatively minor effects on the depth and duration of anaesthesia, so offers little advantage to the use of K/M alone.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hedenqvist P, Orr HE, Roughan JV, Antunes LM, Flecknell PA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia

Year: 2002

Volume: 29

Issue: 1

Pages: 14-19

ISSN (print): 1467-2987

ISSN (electronic): 1467-2995

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1046/j.1467-2987.2001.00058.x


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