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  • When the animal suffers pain, providing adequate analgesia is paramount for their health and also welfare. Analgesia should be provided during painful medical conditions depending on the level and type of pain. It should also be given during the perioperative period of surgical procedures; this contributes to patient well-being and improved anesthesia outcome.
  • It is important to give analgesics pre-emptively, as a more effective pain relief can be achieved (preventing 'wind-up').
  • Analgesia should be given until pain has been treated or has passed. This should be taken in consideration also when rabbits are discharged after a surgical procedure.
  • Another advantage of effective intra-operative analgesia is the reduced need for injectable or inhalant agents to maintain a level of anesthesia.
  • The concentration of inhalational anesthetics such as isoflurane Isoflurane to maintain anesthesia are reduced by 0.005-0.025% when analgesics are used in conjunction.
  • To provide evidence for this sparing effect using injectable agents (IM, IP injections) is much more difficult as individual requirements are not clearly assessable.
  • In addition to anesthetic dose reduction, pre-emptive analgesia reduces post-operative recovery due to enhanced locomotion and increased appetite.
See Analgesic dose rates table.


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Analgesic drugs for the rabbit

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Pihno R H (2022) Validation of the rabbit pain behaviour scale (RPBS) to assess acute post operative pain in rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). PLOS One 17 (5), e0268973 PubMed.
  • Banchi P, Quaranta G, Ricci A & Mauthe von Degerfeld M (2021) Reliability and construct validity of a composite pain scale for rabbit (CANCRS) in a clinical environment. PloS One 15 (4), e0221377 PubMed.
  • Benato L, Murrell J, Knowles T G & Rooney N J (2021) Development of the Bristol Rabbit Pain Scale: A multidimension composite pain scale for assessing acute pain in rabbits. PLOS One 16 (6), e0252417 PubMed.
  • Delk K W, Carpenter J W, KuKanich B et al (2014) Pharmacokinetics of meloxicam administered orally to rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) for 29 days. Am J Vet Res 75 (2), 195-199 PubMed.
  • Keating S C J, Thomas A A, Flecknell P A & Leach M C (2012) Evaluation of EMLA cream for preventing pain during tattooing of rabbits: Changes in physiological, behavioural and facial expression responses. Plos One. 7 (9), e44437 PubMed.
  • Wenger S (2012) Anesthesia and analgesia in rabbits and rodents. J Exotic Pet Med 21 (1), 7-16 VetMedResource.
  • Barter L S (2011) Rabbit analgesia. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract 14 (1), 93-104 PubMed.
  • Flecknell P A (2011) Analgesia of small mammals. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract (1), 47-56 PubMed.
  • Egger C M, Souza M J, Greenacre C B et al (2009) Effect of intravenous administration of tramadol hydrochloride on the minimum alveolar concentration of isoflurane in rabbits. Am J Vet Res 70 (8), 945-949 PubMed.
  • Leach M C, Allweiler S, Richardson C et al (2009) Behavioural effects of ovariohysterectomy and oral administration of meloxicam in laboratory housed rabbits. Res Vet Sci 87 (2), 336-347 PubMed.
  • Longley L (2008) Anesthesia and analgesia in rabbits and rodents. In Pract 30 (2), 92-97 VetMedResource.
  • Souza M A, Greenacre C B & Cox S K (2008) Pharmacokinetics of orally administered tramadol in domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Am J Vet Res 69 (8), 979-982 PubMed.
  • ACLAM Task Force Members, Kohn D F, Martin T E et al (2007) Public statement: guidelines for the assessment and management of pain in rodents and rabbits. J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci 46 (2), 97-108 PubMed.
  • Turner P V, Kerr C L, Healy A J et al (2006) Effect of meloxicam and butorphanol on minimum alveolar concentration of isoflurane in rabbits. Am J Vet Res 67 (5), 770-774 PubMed.
  • Borkowski R & Karas A Z (1999) Sedation and anesthesia of pet rabbits. Clin Tech Small Animal Pract 14 (1), 44-49 PubMed.
  • Ramer J C, Paul-Murphy J, Benson K G (1999) Evaluating and stabilizing critically ill rabbits - Part II. Comp Contin Educ Pract Vet 21 (2), 116-125 VetMedResource.
  • Hillyer E V (1994) Pet rabbits. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 24 (1), 25-65 PubMed.
  • Hughes P J, Doherty M M & Charman W N (1993) A rabbit model for the evaluation of epidurally administered local anesthetic agents. Anesth Inten Care 21 (3), 298-303 PubMed.
  • Liles J H & Flecknell P A (1992) The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the relief of pain in laboratory rodents and rabbits. Lab Anim 26 (4), 241-255 PubMed.
  • Flecknell P A & Liles J H (1990) Assessment of analgesic action of opioid agonist-antagonists in the rabbit. J Assoc Vet Anaesth 17, 24-29 VetMedResource.
  • Kero P, Thomasson B & Soppi A M (1981) Spinal anesthesia in the rabbit. Lab Animal 15 (4), 347-348 PubMed.
  • Stephen G W & Cooper L V (1977) The role of analgesics in respiratory depression - a rabbit model. Anesthesia 32 (4), 324-327 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Hawkins M G & Pascoe P J (2021) Anaesthesia, Analgesia and Sedation of Small Mammals. In: Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents Clinical Medicine and Surgery. Eds: Quesenberry K E, Orcutt C J, Mans C & Carpenter J W. Elsevier, USA. pp 536-558.
  • Hedley J (2020) Ed BSAVA Small Animal Formulary, Part B: Exotic Pets. BSAVA, UK.
  • Flecknell P (2016) Analgesia and Post-Operative Care. In: Laboratory Animal Anesthesia. 4th edn. Academic Press, UK. pp 142-194.
  • Flecknell P A & Thomas A A (2015) Comparative Anesthesia and Analgesia of Laboratory Animals. In: Lumb and Jones' Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia. Eds: Grimm K A, Lamont L A, Tranquilli W J, Greene S A & Robertson S A. Wiley Blackwell, USA. pp 754-763.
  • Meredith A (2015) Ed BSAVA Small Animal Formulary Part B: Exotic Pets. 9th edn. BSAVA, UK. 
  • Eatwell K (2014) Analgesia, Sedation and Anesthesia. In: Manual of Rabbit Medicine. Eds: Meredith A & Lord B. BSAVA, UK. pp 138-159.
  • Varga M (2014) Anesthesia and Analgesia. In: Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. 2nd edn. Butterworth-Heinemann, UK. pp 178-202.
  • Carpenter J W (2013) Exotic Animal Formulary. 4th edn. Elsevier Saunders, USA.
  • Johnson-Delaney C A & Harcourt-Brown F (2013) Analgesia and Postoperative Care. In: Manual of Rabbit Surgery, Dentistry and Imaging. Eds. Harcourt-Brown F & Chitty J. BSAVA, UK. pp 26-38. 
  • Khan C M (2010) Pharmacology. In: The Merck Veterinary Manual.10th edn. Ed: Khan C M. Merck and Co Inc, USA. pp 2123-2378.
  • Lichtenberger M (2008) Anesthesia, Analgesia and Monitoring of the Critical Rabbit Patient. In: Proc 51st BSAVA Annual Congress. pp 160-163.
  • Huerkamp M J (1995) Anesthesia and Post-operative Management of Rabbits and Pocket Pets. In: Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XII Small Animal Practice. Ed: Bonagura J D. W B Saunders Co, USA. pp 1322-1327.
  • Harvey R C & Walberg J (1987) Special Considerations for Anesthesia and Analgesia in Research Animals. In: Principles & Practice of Veterinary Anesthesia. Ed: Short C E. Williams & Wilkins, USA. pp 380-392.

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