The pharmacokinetics of midazolam were investigated following intravenous and intramuscular administration of 0.5 mg of midazolam hydrochloride/kg of body weight to five healthy mixed-breed dogs. One dog also received the same dose of midazolam by oral and rectal routes. The disposition of midazolam following intravenous administration was characterized by very rapid and relatively extensive distribution followed by rapid elimination. Mean (+/- SD) apparent volume of distribution was 3.0 +/- 0.9 l/kg, mean elimination half-life was 77 +/- 18 min, and clearance was 27 +/- 3 ml/kg/min. Following intramuscular administration, absorption was rapid and complete. A mean peak midazolam concentration of 549 +/- 121 ng/ml was reached within 15 min, and systemic availability was over 90% in each dog. Oral administration to one dog resulted in peak midazolam concentrations within 10 min and a systemic availability of 69%. Rectal administration to the same dog yielded very low systemic availability. Midazolam was extensively bound to canine plasma proteins, with the unbound fraction representing less than 4% of the total plasma midazolam concentration. Plasma samples were also assayed for the presence of the major metabolites, 1-OH and 4-OH midazolam. Neither metabolite were detected, probably as a result of rapid elimination of these compounds by hepatic glucuronidation. Behavioral responses to administration of midazolam included initial signs of profound weakness, ataxia and transient agitation followed by a period of quiesence. A normal behavior pattern returned within 2 h of midazolam administration.