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Evaluation of sedation and analgesia in standing horses after administration of xylazine, butorphanol, and subanesthetic doses of ketamine

Ann E. Wagner DVM, MS, DACVA, DACVP1, Khursheed R. Mama DVM, DACVA2, Erin K. Contino MS, DVM3, Dora J. Ferris DVM4, and Christopher E. Kawcak DVM, PhD, DACVS5
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.
  • | 4 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.
  • | 5 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the sedative and analgesic effects of subanesthetic doses of ketamine in horses sedated with xylazine, with or without butorphanol.

Design—Prospective, randomized, controlled study.

Animals—10 adult horses.

Procedures—Each horse was sedated multiple times by administration of xylazine (treatment X), xylazine and butorphanol (treatment XB), xylazine with 1 of 2 dosages of ketamine (treatment XK1 or XK2), or xylazine and butorphanol with 1 of 2 dosages of ketamine (treatment XBK1 or XBK2). Head height and various behaviors, including responses to noise, insertion of a dental float, needle prick on the flank, algometer pressure on the scapula, and bilateral carpal arthrocenteses, were evaluated.

Results—No significant differences were detected among sedation treatments for head height, response to noise, or response to arthrocenteses. Insertion of a dental float was easiest with treatment XBK2 and most difficult with treatments XK1 and XK2. Response to a needle prick on the flank was lowest with treatment XB and highest with treatment XK2. Tolerance to algometer pressure over the scapula was highest with treatment XBK2 and lowest with treatment X.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Administration of a subanesthetic dosage of ketamine with xylazine and butorphanol may facilitate certain procedures, such as insertion of a dental float, in horses and enhance tolerance to pressure stimulation, but it may worsen responses to acute pain, such as that caused by a needle prick. Further evaluation is needed to determine whether subanesthetic dosages of ketamine might be useful when performing certain clinical procedures in horses.

Contributor Notes

Supported in part by ArthroDynamic Technologies Incorporated.

The authors thank Jeffrey J. Ullmer, Jodi Callison, and Caitlin W. Leonard for technical assistance and James ZumBrunnen for assistance with the statistical analysis.

Address correspondence to Dr. Wagner (aewagner@colostate.edu).