Detomidine: A preliminary analysis of its duration of action in the horse by variable interval responding


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Variable interval (VI) reinforcement scheduling is a specific type of operant conditioning that is sensitive to drug effects even when overt clinical signs of the drug have diminished. Six horses were conditioned to break a light beam with a head‐bobbing movement and this behaviour was reinforced with a reward of clean oats (approximately 30 mg/reinforcement). Initial training procedures included familiarisation with the behavioural equipment and fixed‐ratio reinforced scheduling. To establish baseline rates of behaviour, the horses were converted to a variable interval (60 sees) reinforcement schedule and kept on this schedule for the remainder of the study. A within subjects cross‐over design was used with three treatments counterbalanced with the six horses. Detomidine (40 μg kg body weight, xylazine (1.1 mg/kg bodyweight) and saline (10 ml) were administered intravenously on Monday mornings with VI responding rates measured during a routine 30 min session each day from Monday to Friday. Responses and reinforcements were recorded and dispensed by use of an electromechanical relay system wired to an electric eye, an automatic feeder and a programming and recording system. Xylazine produced a small decrease in responding rates at 1 h post dose, while detomidine treated horses showed a dramatic decrease in responding rates after 1 h and a lingering effect at 24 h. No long range effects were seen with either treatment and all horses returned to baseline responding rates by 48 h post dose.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-322
Number of pages3
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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