We studied four different drug regimes for anaesthetic management in chinchillas and evaluated and compared their cardiovascular and respiratory effects. In this randomized, cross-over experimental study, seven adult chinchillas, five females, two males [515 ± 70 (SD) g] were randomly assigned to one of the following groups: group 1 [midazolam, medetomidine and fentanyl (MMF), flumazenil, atipamezole and naloxone (FAN); MMF–FAN] received 1.0 mg/kg midazolam, 0.05 mg/kg medetomidine and 0.02 mg/kg fentanyl i.m., and for reversal 0.1 mg/kg flumazenil, 0.5 mg/kg atipamezole and 0.05 mg/kg naloxone s.c. after 45 min; group 2 (MMF) 1.0 mg/kg midazolam, 0.05 mg/kg medetomidine and 0.02 mg/kg fentanyl i.m.; group 3 [xylazine/ketamine (X/K)] 2.0 mg/kg xylazine and 40.0 mg/kg ketamine i.m.; and group 4 [medetomidine/ketamine (M/K)] 0.06 mg/kg medetomidine and 5.0 mg/kg ketamine i.m. Reflexes were judged to determine anaesthetic stages and planes. Anaesthesia with X/K and M/K was associated with a prolonged surgical tolerance and recovery period. By reversing MMF, recovery period was significantly shortened (5 ± 1.3 min versus 40 ± 10.3 min in MMF without FAN, 73 ± 15.0 min in X/K, and 31 ± 8.5 min in M/K). Without reversal, MMF produced anaesthesia lasting 109 ± 16.3 min. All combinations decreased respiratory and heart rate but compared with X/K and M/K, respiratory and cardiovascular complications were less in the MMF groups. Focussing on the clinical relevance of the tested combinations, completely reversible anaesthesia showed two major advantages: anaesthesia can be antagonized in case of emergency and routinely shortens recovery. In small animals particularly these advantages lead to less complications and discomfort and thus often can be lifesaving. As all analgesic components (medetomidine and fentanyl) are reversed, postoperative analgesia should be provided before reversal of anaesthesia.