Propofol Anaesthetic Induction in Rabbits (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords --
Propofol without premedication


  • Place an intravenous catheter. (B602.33.w33)

Anaesthetic induction

  • Give propofol 10 mg/kg (B601.16.w16), by slow intravenous injection (e.g. 60 seconds). (B601.16.w16)
    • This provides light anaesthesia sufficient for intubation (Endotracheal Intubation of Rabbits). (B601.16.w16)
    • Faster injection of a lower dose 4.0 - 8.0 mg/kg has also been used but results in greater cardiovascular depression. (J290.35.w1)
    • 3-6 mg/kg intravenously (B538.59.w59, B602.33.w33)
    • 5 - 14 mg; this dose range is safe and should give sufficient time for intubation. (B600.5.w5, J495.43.w3)
      • A dose of 8.45 mg/kg for rapid loss of consciousness and sufficient anaesthetic depth for intubation in 95% of New Zealand white rabbits. (J495.43.w3)

Anaesthetic maintenance

Propofol with medetomidine premedication


  • Give medetomidine 0.35 mg/kg intramuscularly (into the lumbar longissimus muscle. (J83.31.w2)
    • This provides sedation and relaxation with rabbits remaining in lateral recumbency. (J83.31.w2)
  • Wait 15 minutes. (J83.31.w2)

Anaesthetic induction

  • Give propofol, 3 mg/kg intravenously. (J83.31.w2)
    • In a study, this provided mean 11 minutes (5 - 15 minutes) of surgical anaesthesia. (J83.31.w2)
    • Recovery (recurrence of righting reflex) occurred by 76 +/- 10 minutes after the injection of the premedication. (J83.31.w2)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • For anaesthetic induction of healthy rabbits. (B602.33.w33)
  • Provides a rapid, smooth induction. (J290.35.w1)
  • Provides sufficient anaesthesia for intubation. (B601.16.w16)
  • Rapid, reasonably smooth, excitement-free recovery. (B601.16.w16, J495.43.w3, J501.37.w3)
  • Propofol (8 mg/kg) causes an immediate, transient decrease in vascular diameters, an increase in peripheral vascular resistance and a significant decrease in ventricular performance in rabbits . (J290.35.w1)
  • Propofol at 3 mg/kg following premedication with medetomidine at 0.35 mg/kg, produced heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and body temperature which were considered to be within acceptable ranges. (J83.31.w2)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Transient apnoea occurs after propofol administration. (B600.5.w5)
    • Apnoea may occur if the propofol is given too rapidly. (B601.16.w16)
  • Propofol at 10 mg/kg provides only light anaesthesia in the rabbit. (B601.16.w16)
  • Produces bradycardia (depending on dose). (J290.35.w1)
  • Depresses arterial baroreceptors, therefore despite marked hypotension, no compensatory rise in heart rate occurs. (J290.35.w1)
  • Respiratory arrest may occur if higher doses (15 - 20 mg/kg) are given. (B601.16.w16)
  • Not suitable for prolongation of anaesthesia by repeated dosing with propofol, due to development of hypotension and hypoxaemia. (J428.21.w1, J495.43.w4)
  • Respiratory depression associated with use of propofol may increase if the rabbit is anaesthetised repeatedly using propofol. (J501.37.w3)
  • Propofol alone does not provide sufficient analgesia for painful procedures. (B602.33.w33)
  • It is advisable to place an intravenous catheter before propofol induction. (B602.33.w33)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Propofol

  • Medetomidine if premedication is desired.

  • Anaesthetic equipment, oxygen and inhalant anaesthetic for continuing anaesthesia.

Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • This procedure should only be carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience.
Cost/ Availability
  • depends on the cost and availability of propofol in different countries.
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 Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referee Frances Harcourt-Brown BVSc FRCVS (V.w140)
References B538.59.w59, B600.5.w5, B601.16.w16, B602.33.w33, J83.31.w2, J290.35.w1, J428.21.w1, J495.43.w3, J495.43.w4, J501.37.w3

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