TECHNIQUE

Intramuscular Injection of Rabbits (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Site for IM injection longissimus dorsi. Click here for full page view with caption. IM injection longissimus dorsi. Click here for full page view with caption. IM injection quadriceps femoris. Click here for full page view with caption.

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords IM injection
Description
Injection Sites
  • Cranial muscle mass of the hind leg (quadriceps) (B601.2.w2, B606.17.w17, B615.6.w6, J213.9.w1, P113.2005.w2)
    • The quadriceps muscle group is the preferred site of intramuscular injections in this species. (B600.3.w3, B602.14.w14)
    • If this muscle is used, the injected volume should be no greater than around 1 ml per 4 kg rabbit. (B615.6.w6)
  • Dorsal lumbar muscles (epaxial muscles)
    • These large muscles lie either side of the spine. (B601.2.w2, B602.14.w14, P113.2005.w2)
    • This is the preferred site of intramuscular injections as the muscle mass is easily accessible. (B615.6.w6, J213.9.w1)
    • The best site for intramuscular injection into this muscle is just cranial to the pelvis. (B602.14.w14)
    • One person can easily do this on their own by tucking the animal under an arm as if carrying it. Just before giving the injection, use your arm to gently squeeze the rabbit to prevent it from jumping during the injection. (B602.14.w14)
  • Caudal muscle mass of the hind leg (B601.2.w2)
    • The caudal muscle mass of the hind limb can also be used but care must be taken to avoid the sciatic nerve by palpating and identifying the muscles (semitendinosus, semimembranous, and biceps femoris) and ensuring that the injection is actually given into the muscle. (B600.3.w3, B602.14.w14)
Technique
  • Ensure that all equipment is available prior to starting the procedure.
  • Restraint
    • Appropriate restraint is necessary during the injection to prevent injury. (J213.9.w1)
    • For unassisted intramuscular injections, restraint with a towel can be very helpful, exposing the area to be injected. (B615.6.w6)
  • Select an injection site without gross contamination (e.g. visible mud, faeces).
  • Select an appropriate needle size (gauge and length) and syringe size for the rabbit.
    • Small gauge needles (22 to 27 gauge). (B606.17.w17)
  • Insert the needle at a right angle to the centre of the muscle mass. (B601.2.w2)
  • Draw back on the barrel of the syringe to make certain that the needle is not in a blood vessel.
  • Deliver the injection slowly but steadily, checking for leakage around needle.
  • Carefully massage the site, where possible, to ensure optimal distribution of drugs. 
  • Check for bleeding from the injection site and apply pressure to aid clotting if this occurs.
  • Clean any excess blood from the area after clotting has been achieved.
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Intramuscular injection is used for drugs specifically indicated by this route.
    • There are a few products that should be administered intramuscularly in the rabbit. (B600.3.w3)
  • Medications can be quickly and easily administered in the conscious rabbit via the intramuscular route.
  • Potential good drug absorption.
  • Restraint time usually minimal.
  • Intramuscular injection is only suitable for volumes less than 1 mL. (B601.2.w2)
    • Large volumes of medication (greater than 0.5 mL/kg) should be divided and administered in two sites. (B600.3.w3)
    • Up to 1.5 mL can be given intramuscularly in a large rabbit. (B606.17.w17)
    • A limit of 1.0 mL per site, in the lumbar muscles is recommended. (J14.40.w3)
Notes
  • Manufacturer's data sheet recommendations should be followed as to the recommended route and rate of drug administration (subcutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous).
  • Because of its rich blood supply, the intramuscular route is perceived to be a route for more rapid absorption of drugs than the subcutaneous site.
  • Dirty needles and syringes must be disposed of properly (needles always into a properly marked sharps container. (D249.w10)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Side effects
    • IM injection can be painful. (B601.2.w2)
    • Some medications for example, enrofloxacin, may cause necrosis, abscessation or pain when administered undiluted into the muscle. It is best to dilute such medications in fluids and then administer them by subcutaneous injection whenever possible. (J213.9.w1)
  • Damage to the sciatic nerve
    • If injecting into the caudal muscle mass of the hind limb, care must be taken to avoid the sciatic nerve by palpating and identifying the muscles (semitendinosus, semimembranous, and biceps femoris) and ensuring that the injection is actually given into the muscle. (B600.3.w3, B602.14.w14, P113.2005.w2
    • There have been reports of self mutilation (Self-mutilation in Rabbits) of the foot in rabbits following injections (xylazine-ketamine, and xylazine-ketamine-acepromazine) into the caudal thigh. Muscle necrosis and tissue damage were found at the injection site, and axonal degeneration of the sciatic nerve was confirmed. (B600.3.w3, J14.40.w3, J495.41.w6)
  • Volume limitations
    • Intramuscular injection is only suitable for volumes less than 1 mL. (B601.2.w2)
    • Large volumes of medication (greater than 0.5 mL/kg) should be divided and administered in two sites. (B600.3.w3)
    • Up to 1.5 mL can be given intramuscularly in a large rabbit. (B606.17.w17)
    • A limit of 1.0 mL per site, in the lumbar muscles is recommended. (J14.40.w3)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Appropriate sizes of needles and syringes.
    • Small gauge needles (22 to 27 gauge). (B606.17.w17)
  • Required drugs.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Procedure should only be undertaken by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience; this would usually be someone with veterinary training.
Cost / Availability Not expensive unless expensive drugs are being administered.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (See: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).

Use of Drugs (Medication):

  • Many drugs are not registered for use in lagomorphs and care should be taken in their use, with proper regard for possible toxic effects. Consideration should be give to relevant legislation regarding the use of drugs.
  • In any country, drugs are unlikely to be specifically licensed for use in non-domestic mammals. 
    • In Europe the prescription cascade must be followed, and the client's informed consent should be obtained, whenever a drug is used which is not licensed for use in a given species. (B284.5.w5)
    • In the UK, guidelines regarding the use of drugs are set out in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct 2000: (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Choice of Medicinal Products).
Author Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103)
Referee Tiffany Blackett BVetMed MRCVS (V.w44); Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
References B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, B602.14.w14, B606.17.w17, B615.6.w6, J14.40.w3, J213.9.w1, J495.41.w6, P113.2005.w2

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