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Anesthesia: injectable



  • The use of injectable drugs for anesthesia in the rabbit is popular. They are easy to administer, inexpensive, relatively safe and effective, and no additional technical equipment is necessary   Injection techniques   (although supplemental oxygen is advisable).
  • Depending on the drug used, disadvantages include the lack of precise control over their effects, frequently prolonged recovery, and physiological changes such as hypoxemia, hypotension, and hypercarbia.
  • Injectable anesthetic regimes have been developed for and evaluated in healthy laboratory rabbits, and many reports in the literature do not account for health problems commonly seen in pet animals, eg subclinical respiratory disease.
  • A thorough assessment of the patient's health and evaluation of likely responses to various drug combinations is paramount to the use of injectable anesthetic agents. Breed, sex and individual animal differences in drug response exist, making the skill of the veterinary practitioner a vital component of the anesthetic protocol. 
  • Despite these variable factors, injectable agents are commonly used in pet rabbit anesthesia predominantly due to the difficulties with sole use of volatile anesthetic agents in the species.
  • The use of an injectable induction agent followed by maintenance of anesthesia with a volatile agent may reduce the risks associated with using injectable agents alone as lower doses may be used.

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Route of administration

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Huynh M, Poumeyrol S, Pignon C et al (2015) Intramuscular administration of alfaxalone for sedation in rabbits. Vet Rec 176 (10), 255 PubMed.
  • Murphy K L, Roughan J V, Baxter M G et al (2010) Anaesthesia with a combination of ketamine and medetomidine in the rabbit: effect of premedication with buprenorphine. Vet Anaesth Analg 37 (3), 222-229 PubMed.
  • Grint N J, Smith H E & Senior J M (2008) Clinical evaluation of alfaxalone in cyclodextrin for the induction of anaesthesia in rabbits. Vet Rec 163 (13), 395-396 PubMed.
  • Grint N J & Murison P J (2007) Peri-operative body temperatures in isoflurane-anesthetized rabbits following ketamine-midazolam or ketamine-medetomidine. Vet Anesth Analg 34 (3), 181-189 PubMed.
  • Yershov A L, Jordan B S, Fudge J M et al (2007) Influence of the mode of ventilation on ketamine/xylazine requirements in rabbits. Vet Anesth Analg 34 (3), 157-163 PubMed.
  • Chen W H, Lee C Y, Hung K C et al (2006) The direct cardiac effect of propofol on intact isolated rabbit heart. Acta Anesthesiol Taiwan 44 (1), 19-23 PubMed.
  • Martin-Cancho M F, Lima J R, Luis L et al (2006) Relationship of bispectral index values, hemodynamic changes and recovery times during sevoflurane or propofol anesthesia in rabbits. Lab Anim 40 (1), 28-42 PubMed.
  • Orr H E, Roughan J V & Flecknell P A (2005) Assessment of ketamine and medetomidine anesthesia in the domestic rabbit. Vet Anes Analg 32 (5), 271-279 PubMed.
  • Hedenqvist P, Orr H, Roughan J V et al (2002) Anaesthesia with ketamine/medetomidine in the rabbit: influence of route of administration and the effect of combination with butorphanol. Vet Anaesth Analg 29 (1), 14-19 PubMed.
  • Borkowski R & Karas A Z (1999) Sedation and anesthesia of pet rabbits. Clin Tech Small Animal Pract 14 (1), 44-49 PubMed.
  • Flecknell P A & Liles J H (1996) Halothane anaesthesia in the rabbit - a comparison of the effects of medetomidine, acepromazine and midazolam on breath-holding during induction. J Ass Vet Anaesth 23 (1), 11-14 VetMedResource.
  • Aeschbacher G (1995) Rabbit anesthesia. Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet 17 (8), 1003-1011 VetMedResource.
  • Brammer D W, Doerning B J, Chrisp C E et al (1991) Anesthetic and nephrotoxic effects of Telazol in New Zealand White rabbits. Lab Anim Sci 41 (5), 432-435 PubMed.
  • Peeters M, Gil D, Teske E et al (1988) Four methods for general anaesthesia in the rabbit: a comparative study. Lab Anim 22 (4), 355-360 PubMed.
  • Sedgwick C J (1986) Anesthesia for rabbits. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract (3), 731-736 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Flecknell P (2016) Anesthesia of Common Laboratory Species: Special considerations. In: Laboratory Animal Anesthesia. 4th edn.  London: Academic Press, Elsevier. pp 218-226.
  • 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. pp 754-763.
  • Meredith A (2015) BSAVA Small Animal Formulary Part B: Exotic Pets. 9th edn. BSAVA.
  • Eatwell K (2014) Analgesia, Sedation and Anesthesia. In: Manual of Rabbit Medicine. Eds. Meredith A & Lord B. BSAVA. pp 138-159.
  • Varga M (2014) Anesthesia and Analgesia. In: Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. 2nd edn. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. pp 178-202.
  • 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. Philadelphia: W B Saunders Co. 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. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins. pp 380-392.

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