ISSN 2398-2969      

Anesthesia: intra- and post-operative care


Synonym(s): Intra-operative and post-operative anesthetic care


  • All anesthetic agents will cause a reversible central nervous system depression.
  • Respiratory depression and hypoxia are the most frequently encountered side-effects in anesthetized rabbits.
  • Oxygen supply is important independent of whether inhalant or injectable anesthetic agents are chosen.
  • In longer procedures endotracheal intubation Endotracheal intubation is necessary. However, intubation is recommended even for short procedures.
  • When using intermittent positive-pressure ventilation (IPPV), the risk of atelectasis and barotrauma can be reduced by minimizing the time of IPPV and by avoiding peak inspiratory pressure to go over 15 cm H2O.
  • To support respiration IPPV should be applied approximately once per minute. However, when using both manual and mechanical ventilation, frequency of ventilation can be better determined using capnography, as ventilation should aim for capnograph values of 35-45 mmHg.
  • Depending on the health status of the rabbit, the anesthetic protocol chosen, and the procedure to be performed, continuous IPPV might be necessary.
  • Changes in compliance and resistance to flow within the endotracheal tube because of bronchial secretions may be noted simultaneously whilst applying IPPV.
  • If breathing systems without carbon dioxide absorption are used an appropriate fresh gas flow is necessary to avoid re-breathing of carbon dioxide, ie with a Bain breathing system fresh gas flow has to be two to three times the rabbit's minute ventilation.
  • If capnography is possible the fresh gas flow rates can potentially be reduced.
  • Capnography will demonstrate re-breathing of carbon dioxide, showing an increase in inspired carbon dioxide.

Print off the factsheet Caring for your rabbit before and after surgery to give to your clients.

Evaluation of anesthetic level, monitoring and intra-operative care

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Barter L S & Epstein S E (2014) Comparison of Doppler, oscillometric, auricular and carotid arterial blood pressure measurements in isoflurane anesthetized New Zealand white rabbits. Vet Anaesth Analg 41 (4), 393-397 PubMed.
  • Wenger S (2012) Anesthesia and analgesia in rabbits and rodents. J Exotic Pet Med 21 (1), 7-16 VetMedResource.
  • Lord B, Boswood A & Petrie A (2010) Electrocardiography of the normal domestic pet rabbit. Vet Rec 167 (25), 961-965 PubMed.
  • Swenson J, Henao-Guerrero P N & Carpenter J W (2008) Clinical technique: use of capnography in small mammal anesthesia. J Exot Pet Med 17 (3), 175-180 VetMedResource.
  • Bateman L, Ludders J W & Gleed R D (2005) Comparison between facemask and laryngeal mask airway in rabbits during isoflurane anesthesia. Vet Anaes & Analg 32 (5), 280-288 PubMed.
  • Stanford M (2004) Practical use of capnography in exotic animal anaesthesia. Exotic DVM 6 (3), 49-52 VetMedResource.
  • Imai A, Steffey E P, Ilkiw J E et al (1999) Comparison of clinical signs and hemodynamic variables used to monitor rabbits during halothane- and isoflurane-induced anesthesia. Am J Vet Res 60 (10), 1189-1195 PubMed.
  • Aeschbacher G (1995) Rabbit anesthesia. Comp Contin Educ Pract Vet 17 (8), 1003-1011 VetMedResource.
  • Hellebrekers L J (1993) Treatment of perioperative pain in dogs, cats and rabbits. Tijdschr Diergeneeskd 118 (Suppl 1), 8S-10S PubMed.
  • Vegfors M, Sjöberg F, Lindberg L G et al (1991) Basic studies of pulse oximetry in a rabbit model. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 35 (7), 596-599 PubMed.
  • Borkowski G L, Danneman P J, Russell G B et al (1990) An evaluation of three intravenous anesthetic regimens in New Zealand rabbits. Lab Anim Sci 40 (3), 270-276 PubMed.
  • Vitez T, White P F & Eger E I 2nd (1974) Effect of hypothermia on halothane MAC and isoflurane MAC in the rat. Anesthesiology 41 (1), 80-81 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Flecknell P (2016) Managing and Monitoring Anesthesia. In: Laboratory Animal Anesthesia. 4th edn. Academic Press, UK. pp 77-108.
  • Varga M (2015) Safe Rabbit Anesthesia/Analgesia. In: Proc of the 58th BSAVA Annual Congress. Birmingham, UK.
  • Eatwell K (2014) Analgesia, Sedation and Anesthesia. In: Manual of Rabbit Medicine. Eds. Meredith A & Lord B. BSAVA, UK. pp 138-159.
  • Heard D (2014) Lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and pikas). In: Zoo Animal and Wildlife Immobilization and Anesthesia. 2nd edn. Eds: West G, Heard D & Caulkett N. Wiley Blackwell, USA. pp 879-891.
  • Varga M (2014) Anesthesia and Analgesia. In: Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. 2nd edn. Butterworth-Heinemann, UK. pp 178-202.
  • 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.
  • Hawkins M G & Pascoe P J (2012) Anesthesia, Analgesia and Sedation of Small Mammals. In: Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. 3rd edn. Eds: Quesenberry K E & Carpenter J W. Elsevier Saunders, USA. pp 429-451.
  • 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, USA. pp 1322-1327.

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