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Anesthetic Drugs: Rodents and Rabbits



Preanesthetic Medications

Prepared by Deborah M. Mook, DVM

UPDATE: April 2006



Preanesthetic medications, such as tranquilizers and sedatives, are not recommended, with the exception of anticholinergic drugs, because single injection anesthesia techniques have been developed that minimize the handling stress and eliminate the discomfort associated with multiple injections. Serum and tissue atropinesterases found in many rabbits and rats render atropine sulfate ineffective, therefore, subcutaneous (SC) administration of glycopyrrolate (RobinulR, A.H. Robins Company, Richmond, VA), a quaternary ammonium parasympatholytic, should be given to reduce salivary and bronchial secretions and prevent vagal bradycardia.




Pre-anesthetic Agents (in mg/kg, unless otherwise noted ) for Rodents and Rabbits

Agent Guinea Pig Mouse Rat Rabbit
Atropine Sulfate 0.5 SC 0.04 SC 0.05 IP, SC Not recommended
Glycopyrrolate 0.01-0.02 SC 0.01-0.02 SC 0.5 IM 0.01 IV 0.1 SC


Selected References


  • Bruch D, S Ikramuddin, J Koch, et al. 1996. Novel device for small animal anesthesia. Cont Top Lab Anim Sci 35(6): 73-4.

  • Cruz JI, et al. 1998. Observations on the use of medetomidine/ketamine and its reversal with atipamezole for chemical restraint in the mouse. Lab Animals 32: 18-22.

  • Danneman PJ, Mandrell TD. Evaluation of five agents/methods for anesthesia of neonatal rats. 1997b. Lab Anim Sci 47: 386-95.

  • Field KJ, White WJ, Lang CM. 1993. Anaesthetic effects of chloral hydrate, pentobarbitone and urethane in adult male rats. Lab Animals 27: 258-69.

  • Flecknell P.A. 1996. Anaesthesia and analgesia for rodents and rabbits. In: Handbook of Rodent and Rabbit Medicine, Laber-Laird K, Swindle MM and Flecknell PA, eds., Pergammon Press, Butterworth-Heineman, Newton, MA, pp. 219-37.

  • Flecknell, P.A. 1996. Laboratory Animal Anaesthesia: An Introduction for Research Workers and Technicians. 2nd ed., Academic Press, London, U.K.

  • Gardner DJ, Davis JA, et al. 1995. Comparison of tribromoethanol, ketamine/acetylpromazine, TelazolTM/Xylazine, pentobarbital, and methoxyflurane anesthesia in HSD:ICR mice. Lab Anim Sci 45: 199-204.

  • Huerkamp MJ. 1994. Chemical restraint of rabbits and pocket pets. Current Veterinary Therapy XII: Small Animal Practice (Kirk RW and Bonagura JD, eds.), WB Saunders Co., Philadelphia, PA.

  • Kohn DF, Wixson SK, and WJ White. 1994. Anesthesia and Analgesia in Laboratory Animals. Academic Press, Orlando, FL, 1997.

  • Libbin RM, Person P. 1979. Neonatal rat surgery: Avoiding maternal cannibalism. Science 206: 66.

  • Lipman NS, Marini RP, Erdman SE. 1990. A comparison of ketamine/xylazine and ketamine/xylazine/acepromazine anesthesia in the rabbit. Lab Anim Sci 40: 395-8.

  • Marini RP, Avison DL, Corning BF, et al. 1991. Ketamine/xylazine/butorphanol: A new anesthetic combination for rabbits. Lab Anim Sci 42: 57-62.

  • Papaioannou VE, Fox JG. 1993. Efficacy of tribromoethanol anesthesia in mice. Lab Anim Sci 43: 189-92.

  • Park CM, Clegg KE, et al. 1992. Improved techniques for neonatal rat surgery. Lab Anim Sci 42: 508-13.

  • Phifer CB, Terry LE. 1986. Use of hypothermia for general anesthesia in preweanling rodents. Physiol Behav 38: 887-90.

  • Reid WC, Carmichael KP, et al. 1999. Pathologic changes associated with use of tribromoethanol (Avertin) in the Sprague Dawley rat.Lab Anim Sci 49(6): 665-7.

  • Roughan JV, OB Ojeda and PA Flecknell. 1999. The influence of pre-anesthetic administration of buprenorphine on the anaesthetic effects of ketamine/medetomidine and pentobarbitone in rats and the consequences of repeated anesthesia. Lab Animals 33: 234-42.

  • Weiss J, Zimmermann F. 1999. Tribromoethanol (Avertin) as an anesthetic in mice [Letters to the Editor]. Lab Animals 33: 192-3.

  • Wixson, S.K. 1994. Anesthesia and analgesia for rabbits. In: Manning PJ, Ringler DH, and Newcomer CE, eds., The Biology of the Laboratory Rabbit, 2nd edition, Academic Press, Orlando, FL, pp. 87-109.

  • Zenner W, Meier G, et al. 1997. Adverse effects of tribromoethanol as used in the production of transgenic mice. Lab Animals 32: 407-13.