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Keywords:

  • Analgesia;
  • Behavior;
  • Gastrointestinal;
  • Motility

Background: Ketamine as continuous rate infusion (CRI) provides analgesia in hospitalized horses.

Objective: Determine effects of prolonged CRI of ketamine on gastrointestinal transit time, fecal weight, vital parameters, gastrointestinal borborygmi, and behavior scores in healthy adult horses.

Animals: Seven adult Thoroughbred or Thoroughbred cross horses, with permanently implanted gastric cannulae.

Methods: Nonblinded trial. Random assignment to 1 of 2 crossover designed treatments. Ketamine (0.55 mg/kg IV over 15 minutes followed by 1.2 mg/kg/h) or lactated Ringer's solution (50 mL IV over 15 minutes followed by 0.15 mL/kg/h) treatments. Two hundred 3 × 5 mm plastic beads administered by nasogastric tube before drug administration. Every 2 hours vital parameters, behavior scores recorded, feces collected and weighed, and beads retrieved. Every 6 hours gastrointestinal borborygmi scores recorded. Study terminated upon retrieval of 180 beads (minimum 34 hours) or maximum 96 hours. Nontransit time data analyzed between hours 0 and 34.

Results: No significant (P < .05) differences detected between treatments in vital signs or gastrointestinal borborygmi. Significant (P = .002) increase in behavior score during ketamine infusion (0.381) from hours 24–34 compared with placebo (0). Ketamine caused significant delay in passage of 25, 50, and 75% of beads (ketamine = 30.6 ± 5.3, 41.4 ± 8.4, 65.3 ± 13.5 hours versus placebo = 26.8 ± 7.9, 34.3 ± 11.1, 45.8 ± 19.4 hours), and significant (P < .05) decrease in fecal weight from hours 22 (12.6 ± 3.2 versus 14.5 ± 3.8 kg) through 34 (18.5 ± 3.9 versus 12.8 ± 6.4 kg) of infusion.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Ketamine CRI delayed gastrointestinal transit time in healthy horses without effect on vital parameters.