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Comparison of perioperative racemic methadone, levo-methadone and dextromoramide in cats using indicators of post-operative pain


Dr C Rohrer Bley, Section of Diagnostic Imaging and Radio-Oncology, Veterinary School, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 260, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail:


Objective  To compare three opioid agonist drugs for perioperative analgesia in cats.

Study design  Prospective, blind, controlled, randomised trial.

Animals  Ninety client-owned cats, weighing 3.1 (2.1–4.5) kg, aged 14.6 (6.0–84.0) months, were studied.

Methods  Seventy-six cats, scheduled for ovariectomy, received either 0.6 mg kg−1 racemic methadone, 0.3 mg kg−1 levo-methadone, 0.05 mg kg−1 dextromoramide or a saline placebo IM. Behaviour and body position were assessed and scored 20 minutes later by a single ‘blinded’ observer. Anaesthesia was induced with propofol and maintained with halothane. Heart rate (HR), respiratory rate (RR), Feco2 and SpO2 were recorded during anaesthesia. Post-operatively, pain was categorised as absent, moderate or severe, on the basis of appearance, behaviour and response to palpation of the surgical wound (pain score). Appearance, pain scores and physiological variables were monitored every 30 minutes, for a duration of 4 hours. Differences between time-dependent continuous variables were analysed using mixed models for repeated measurements. Differences in categorical, time-dependent variables were analysed using χ2-tests. Significance was set at p ≤ 0.05.

Results  There were no significant changes in appearance after pre-anaesthetic medication. After surgery, there was no association between appearance and pain score with HR or RR. The assessment of pain depended on comparison with the placebo group, by comparing animals' reactions to wound palpation. Sixteen of the 18 cats in the placebo group and 14 of the 19 cats in the dextromoramide group showed signs of moderate-to-severe pain after surgery. In the levo-methadone group (n = 20), one animal showed pain after 60 minutes and two after 120 minutes. One cat in the racemic methadone group (n = 19) showed pain signs and behavioural changes at 60 minutes. Compared to the two methadone groups, ‘rescue’ analgesia was required more often in cats treated with dextromoramide or saline.

Conclusion and clinical relevance  Dextromoramide (0.05 mg kg−1) was ineffective, while racemic methadone (0.6 mg kg−1) and levo-methadone (0.3 mg kg−1) provided effective analgesia in cats following ovariectomy, without behavioural, respiratory or cardiovascular side effects.