Andrews, D. D., Fajt, V. R., Baker, K. C. et al. 2020. A comparison of buprenorphine, sustained release buprenorphine, and high concentration buprenorphine in male New Zealand white rabbits. JAALAS 59(5), 546-556.
Pain management in rabbits can be difficult because they are adept at hiding pain and can be stressed by handling and restraint for injection. The use of opioid analgesics with prolonged durations of activity could alleviate pain, but associated adverse effects including gastrointestinal ileus, inappetence, and tissue reactions have been reported. In this study, we compared gross tissue reactions at the site of injection, food consumption, and fecal production after single injections of buprenorphine HCl (Bup; n = 7), sustained-release buprenorphine (BupSR; n = 8), and high-concentration buprenorphine (BupHC; n = 7) during the first 3 d after minor survival surgery. We also measured plasma concentrations of the parent drug, buprenorphine, and 3 metabolites (buprenorphine-3-glucuronide (B3G), norbuprenorphine-3β-glucuronide (N3G), and norbuprenorphine (NB)). Plasma levels of buprenorphine remained above the theoretical minimal analgesic concentration for 4 h for Bup and 42 h for BupHC. For BupSR, plasma levels of buprenorphine remained above the theoretical minimal analgesic concentration for approximately 77 h, starting 15 h after administration. For all 3 formulations, N3G was the most prominent metabolite in the blood. No injection site reactions were visible grossly in any rabbit. Relative to baseline measures and compared with controls (n = 8), food consumption was suppressed on days 1 through 3 in rabbits that received BupSR and on days 2 through 3 in those given BupHC. Feces production on day 3 was reduced to a greater extent in BupSR rabbits than control animals. Two rabbits in the BupHC group exhibited neurologic signs after drug administration. These adverse effects should be considered when choosing a long-lasting buprenorphine formulation to manage pain in rabbits.