• dog;
  • medetomidine;
  • neuromuscular blockade;
  • vecuronium;
  • alpha-2 agonists


Objective  To quantify the effects of medetomidine on the onset and duration of vecuronium-induced neuromuscular blockade in dogs.

Study Design  Randomized, prospective clinical study.

Animals  Twenty-four, healthy, client-owned dogs of different breeds, aged between 6 months and 10 years and weighing between 5.0 and 40.0 kg undergoing elective surgery.

Methods  Dogs were randomly allocated to two groups. Pre-anaesthetic medication in group M+ was intramuscular acepromazine (ACP) 25 μg kg−1, morphine 0.5 mg kg−1 and medetomidine 5 μg kg−1. Group M− received ACP and morphine only, at the same dose rate. After induction with thiopental, anaesthesia was maintained with halothane in oxygen and nitrous oxide. End-tidal halothane concentration was maintained at 1.1%. Neuromuscular blockade was produced with intravenous vecuronium (50 μg kg−1) and monitored using a train of four stimulus applied at the ulnar nerve. The times taken for loss and reappearance of the four evoked responses (twitches [T]) were recorded. Normal and nonparametric data were analysed with an independent t-test and Mann-Whitney’s U-test, respectively.

Results  The fourth twitch (T4) disappeared at similar times in each group: 107 ± 19; [72–132] (mean ± SD; [range]) seconds in M+ and 98 ± 17 [72–120] seconds in M− dogs. The first twitch (T1) was lost at 116 ± 15; [96–132] seconds in group M+ and 109 ± 19; [72–132] seconds in M−. The fourth twitch returned significantly earlier in M+ dogs: 20.8 ± 3.8 [14–28] minutes compared with 23.8 ± 2.7 [20–27] minutes (= 0.032). The duration of drug effect (T4 absent) was significantly shorter (= 0.027) in M+ (18.9 ± 3.7 minutes) compared with M− dogs (22.2 ± 2.9 minutes). The recovery rate (interval between reappearance of T1 and T4) was significantly more rapid (= 0.0003) in medetomidine recipients (3.0 ± 1.2 versus 5.2 ± 1.3 minutes).

Conclusion and clinical relevance  Medetomidine 5 μg kg−1 as pre-anaesthetic medication shortened the duration of effect of vecuronium in halothane-anaesthetized dogs and accelerated recovery, but did not affect the onset time. These changes are of limited clinical significance.