The clinical effects and pharmacokinetics of medetomidine (MED) and its enanti-omers, dexmedetomidine (DEX) and levomedetomidine (LEVO) were compared in a group of six beagle dogs. The dogs received intravenously (i.v.) a bolus of MED (40 microg/kg), DEX (20 and 10 microg/kg), LEVO (20 and 10 microg/kg), and saline placebo in a blinded, randomized block study in six separate sessions. Sedation and analgesia were scored subjectively, and the dogs were monitored for heart rate, ECG lead II, direct blood pressure, respiratory rate, arterial blood gases, and rectal body temperature. Blood samples for drug analysis were taken. Peak sedative and analgesic effects were observed at mean (+/- SD) plasma levels of 18.5 +/- 4.7 ng/mL for MED40, 14.0 +/- 4.5 ng/mL for DEX20, and 5.5 +/- 1.3 ng/mL for DEX10. The overall level of sedation and cardiorespiratory effects did not differ between MED40, DEX20 and DEX10 during the first hour, apparently due to a ceiling effect. However, the analgesic effect of DEX20 lasted longer than the effect of the corresponding dose of racemic medetomidine, suggesting greater potency for dexmedetomidine in dogs. Levomedetomidine had no effect on cardio-vascular parameters and caused no apparent sedation or analgesia. The pharmacokinetics of dexmedetomidine and racemic medetomidine were similar, but clearance of levomedetomidine was more rapid (4.07 +/- 0.69 L/h/kg for LEVO20 and 3.52 +/- 1.03 for LEVO10) than of the other drugs (1.26 +/- 0.44 L/h/kg for MED40, 1.24 +/- 0.48 for DEX20, and 0.97 +/- 0.33 for DEX10).