• alpha2-adrenergic agonist;
  • horse;
  • medetomidine;
  • pharmacodynamics;
  • pharmacokinetics;
  • sedation


Objective  To describe the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics following an intravenous (IV) bolus dose of medetomidine in the horse.

Study design  Prospective experimental trial.

Animals  Eight, mature healthy horses age 11.7 ± 4.6 (mean ± SD) years, weighing 557 ± 54 kg.

Methods  Medetomidine (10 μg kg−1) was administered IV. Blood was sampled at fixed time points from before drug administration to 48 hours post administration. Behavioral, physiological and biochemical data were obtained at predetermined time points from 0 minutes to 24 hours post administration. An algometer was also used to measure threshold responses to noxious stimuli. Medetomidine concentrations were determined by liquid chromatography-Mass Spectrometry and used for calculation of pharmacokinetic parameters using noncompartmental and compartmental analysis.

Results  Pharmacokinetic analysis estimated that medetomidine peaked (8.86 ± 3.87 ng mL−1) at 6.4 ± 2.7 minutes following administration and was last detected at 165 ± 77 minutes post administration. Medetomidine had a clearance of 39.6 ± 14.6 mL kg−1 minute−1 and a volume of distribution of 1854 ± 565 mL kg−1. The elimination half-life was 29.1 ± 12.5 minutes. Glucose concentration reached a maximum of 176 ± 46 mg dL−1 approximately 1 hour post administration. Decreased heart rate, respiratory rate, borborygmi, packed cell volume, and total protein concentration were observed following administration. Horses lowered their heads from 107 ± 12 to 20 ± 10 cm within 10 minutes of drug administration and gradually returned to normal. Horse mobility decreased after drug administration. An increased mechanical threshold was present from 10 to 45 minutes and horses were less responsive to sound.

Conclusion and clinical relevance  Behavioral and physiological effects following intravenous administration positively correlate with pharmacokinetic profiles from plasma medetomidine concentrations. Glucose concentration gradually transiently increased following medetomidine administration. The analgesic effect of the drug appeared to have a very short duration.