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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • buprenorphine;
  • butorphanol;
  • nociception;
  • pain

Summary

Reasons for performing study: To investigate the antinociceptive effects of buprenorphine administered in combination with acepromazine in horses and to establish an effective dose for use in a clinical environment.

Objectives: To evaluate the responses to thermal and mechanical stimulation following administration of 3 doses of buprenorphine compared to positive (butorphanol) and negative (glucose) controls.

Methods: Observer blinded, randomised, crossover design using 6 Thoroughbred geldings (3–10 years, 500–560 kg). Thermal and mechanical nociceptive thresholds were measured 3 times at 15 min intervals. Horses then received acepromazine 0.05 mg/kg bwt with one of 5 treatments i.v.: 5% glucose (Glu), butorphanol 100 µg/kg bwt (But) buprenorphine 5 µg/kg bwt (Bup5), buprenorphine 7.5 µg/kg bwt (Bup7.5) and buprenorphine 10 µg/kg bwt (Bup10). Thresholds were measured 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, 150, 180, 230 min, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 24 h post treatment administration. The 95% confidence intervals for threshold temperature (ΔT) for each horse were calculated and an antinociceptive effect defined as ΔT, which was higher than the upper limit of the confidence interval. Duration of thermal antinociception was analysed using a within-subjects ANOVA and peak mechanical thresholds with a general linear model with post hoc Tukey tests. Significance was set at P<0.05.

Results: Mean (± s.d.) durations of thermal antinociception following treatment administration were: Glu 0.5 (1.1), But 2.9 (2.0), Bup5 7.4 (2.3), Bup7.5 7.8 (2.7) and Bup10 9.4 (1.1) h. B5, B7.5 and B10 were significantly different from Glu and But. No serious adverse effects occurred, although determination of mechanical thresholds was confounded by locomotor stimulation.

Conclusions: Administration of acepromazine and all doses of buprenorphine produced antinociception to a thermal stimulus for significantly longer than acepromazine and either butorphanol or glucose.

Potential relevance: This study suggests that buprenorphine has considerable potential as an analgesic in horses and should be examined further under clinical conditions and by investigation of the pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic profile.