Accumulating evidence suggests that antipsychotics (APs) that lead to sustained blockade of dopamine D(2) receptors are more likely to induce acute extrapyramidal side effects (EPS) compared to APs that only occupy D(2) receptors transiently. It is unclear, however, whether a similar relationship exists for long-term AP-induced motoric side effects like tardive dyskinesia (TD). The objective of this study was to ascertain whether transient (via daily subcutaneous (s.c.) injections) vs continuous (via osmotic minipump) AP-induced D(2) receptor occupancy differentially affects the development of haloperidol-induced vacuous chewing movements (VCMs), an animal model of TD. Six groups of 12 rats received 0.1, 0.25, or 1 mg/kg of haloperidol or vehicle (n=36) via osmotic minipump (to provide within-day sustained) or daily s.c. injection (within-day transient) for 8 weeks. VCMs were measured on a weekly basis and D(2) occupancy levels were measured in vivo using [(3)H]-raclopride at the end of the experiment. Minipump-treated rats developed HAL dose-dependent D(2) occupancies of 0.1 mg/kg/day (57%), 0.25 mg/kg/day (70%), and 1 mg/kg/day (88%). S.C.-treated rats also developed HAL dose-dependent D(2) occupancies of 0.1 mg/kg/day (83% peak, 3% trough), 0.25 mg/kg/day (89% peak, 0% trough), and 1 mg/kg/day (94% peak, 17% trough). A total of 43% of rats given 0.25 and 1 mg/kg/day of HAL via minipump developed high VCMs compared to only 8% of the rats given the same doses via daily s.c. injections. The 0.1 mg/kg dose did not give rise to VCMs beyond vehicle levels regardless of the route of administration. These findings support the contention that D(2) occupancy levels induced by chronic HAL must be high and sustained through the day before significant risk of VCMs, and perhaps also TD, emerges.