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Professional Version

Respiratory Stimulants in Animals


Patricia M. Dowling

, DVM, MSc, DACVIM, DACVCP, Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Reviewed/Revised Jan 2022 | Modified Nov 2022

Doxapram stimulates the medullary respiratory center and the chemoreceptors of the carotid artery and aorta to increase tidal volume. Other areas of the CNS are stimulated only when high doses are administered. Doxapram is used primarily in emergency situations during anesthesia or to decrease the respiratory depressant effects of opiates and barbiturates. Recommended dosages are 1–5 mg/kg, IV, in dogs and cats, or 1–2 drops under the tongue of apneic neonates. In adult horses, the dosage is 0.5–1 mg/kg, IV. Foals are dosed carefully at 0.02–0.05 mg/kg/h, IV.

Caffeine is known for its CNS and respiratory stimulatory properties. Clinically, caffeine is not as efficacious as doxapram in foals, but it improves the vitality and respiratory capacity of piglets when administered to sows prior to farrowing.

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