We've all heard about or witnessed horses that simply refuse to be restrained long enough for the veterinarian to administer a much-needed intravenous sedative. Authors of a recent study suggest that a sedative-containing gel might be just what the doctor ordered in these cases.

Detomidine is an α-2 adrenergic agonist and one of the more common drugs used to sedate horses. Usually, veterinarians administer detomidine intravenously, but they can inject it intramuscularly as well.

For those "hard to reach" horses, an oral formulation that can be administered by either a veterinarian or horse owner/trainer would be a valuable product, said Gary W. White, DVM, of Sallisaw Equine Clinic, in Oklahoma. White and colleagues tested the gel in 129 horses, and he presented the results at the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, Md.

"The horses in the treatment group were sedated with a single, sublingual (beneath the tongue) dose of the gel prior to performing such procedures as cleaning the prepuce (sheath), clipping hair, trimming feet, shoeing, manual rasping of teeth, radiography, and passing a stomach tube or endoscope," said White.

The researchers included an additional 42 horses in a placebo group.

Key findings:

  • Handlers were able to complete 76% of the procedures successfully in the treatment group;
  • They were successful in completing only 7% of the procedures were in the placebo-treated horses; and
  • The researchers did not note any significant side effects following administration of the detomidine gel.

"This study demonstrated that the gel is safe and effective for horses requiring sedation for routine procedures," concluded White.

This study was one of the studies required for approval of detomidine oral gel in the United States. The product is now approved and is available from Zoetis as Dormosedan Gel.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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