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Subcutaneous versus intramuscular anesthesia with ketamine/medetomidine in rabbits
Small mammals, especially rabbits, are a raising group of patients in veterinary practice. Sometimes anesthesia is required, which tends to be more tricky than in other species. In this study, the optimal route of administration of one of the most popular anesthesia protocols and the possible benefit of adding butorphanol is evaluated.

The characteristics of anaesthesia induced with ketamine/medetomidine administered by the subcutaneous and intramuscular routes is compared and the effects of the addition of butorphanol to this combination was assessed in this prospective randomised study. Six female New Zealand White rabbits were included.

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 kg1 SC; 15/0.25 mg kg1 IM; 15/0.5 mg kg1 SC, and 15/0.25 mg kg1 together with 0.4 mg kg1 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.

All groups lost the righting reflex and ear 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 minute1) and moderate hypoxaemia (mean PaO2 < 6.0 kPa). Animals given butorphanol showed the greatest reduction in respiratory rate (31 ± 13 breaths minute1, p < 0.05) but this was not reflected in any significant differences in arterial PCO2, PO2 or pH among the groups.

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.

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.

Source: P Hedenqvist, B Roughan, LM Antunes, PA Flecknell (2002): Anaesthesia in the rabbit: influence of route of administration and the effect of combination with butorphanol. In: Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia 29 (1), 14-19.





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