A model for clinical evaluation of perioperative analgesia in rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2010 Nov;49(6):845-51.


Assessment of pain in rabbits is challenging, and studies of effective surgical analgesia are lacking for this species. Seeking potential indicators of postoperative pain, we performed ovariohysterectomy and telemeter placement as a form of moderate surgical injury in 20 female rabbits. Rabbits were assigned to 1 of 4 treatment groups (5 per group): buprenorphine (0.02 mg/kg SC every 12 h for 3 d); fentanyl (25-μg patch placed 24 h preoperatively); ketoprofen (1 mg/kg SC every 24 h for 3 d), and control (no treatment given). Various physiologic and behavioral variables were recorded by blinded observers, including food and water consumption, fecal output, and remotely recorded behaviors during daily exercise in 1.2 × 1.8 m floor pens. Compared with preoperative values, significant declines occurred in: food consumption (days 1 to 7), water consumption (days 1 to 4), fecal output (days 1 to 2), mean travel distance, and rearing (days 1 to 3 and day 7). No single treatment proved significantly better than another. Our results demonstrate substantial inappetance and reduction of normal activity levels in rabbits after surgery. Although results from rabbits treated with empirical doses (those typically recommended) of analgesics did not appear substantially better than those from the untreated control group, comparison of other doses and multimodal analgesic techniques by using these behavioral monitoring strategies may prove useful in future studies aimed at optimizing postoperative analgesia in rabbits.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia / veterinary*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Buprenorphine / pharmacology*
  • Drinking
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Fentanyl / pharmacology*
  • Hysterectomy / veterinary
  • Ketoprofen / pharmacology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Ovariectomy / veterinary
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control
  • Pain, Postoperative / veterinary
  • Postoperative Period
  • Rabbits*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Buprenorphine
  • Ketoprofen
  • Fentanyl