Williams, M. D., Long, C. T., Durrant, J. R. et al. 2017. Oral transmucosal detomidine gel in New Zealand White rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). JAALAS 56(4), 436-442.

Handling and restraining rabbits for routine procedures may be impossible without prior sedation, result in unnecessary stress or injury to the rabbit or handler, and increase experimental variability. Parenteral administration of sedatives can cause stress also, as well as localized pain and tissue damage, especially in fractious animals. Detomidine hydrochloride, an α2-adrenergic receptor agonist, is commercially available in an oral transmucosal (OTM) gel formulation that is FDA-approved for sedation and restraint in horses. This study investigated the efficacy and safety of detomidine gel as an alternative to injectable sedation in rabbits. Eight adult male New Zealand White rabbits each received 0.6, 1.2, or 1.8 mg/kg OTM detomidine gel. Physiologic parameters and sedation scores (SS) were assessed at 10-min intervals from before administration until 100 min afterward. Histopathology of cardiac tissue was scored through 12 d after dosing. Gel administration increased the SS in all rabbits, but none of the animals developed clinically effective sedation (SS of 10 or greater, based on 5 reflex responses on a 3- or 4-point scale). The SS did not differ among dosage groups, and the time–dose interaction was not statistically significant. Heart rate decreased rapidly in all rabbits, with no difference among dosage groups, and there was no effect of time or dosage on peripheral capillary oxygen saturation. Minimal to mild degenerative changes were seen in the myocardium of all treated rabbits, but myocyte necrosis, inflammation, fibrosis, and mural thrombi—reported previously in rabbits that had received parenteral detomidine—did not occur. OTM detomidine gel was safely and easily administered to rabbits, but the duration and level of sedation were unpredictable. The use of OTM detomidine as a sole agent to facilitate handling and restraint of rabbits does not offer advantages over existing parenteral regimens.

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