Qualitative and Quantitative Characteristics of the Electroencephalogram in Normal Horses After Sedation

D. C. Williams, Monica R Aleman, B. Tharp, D. J. Fletcher, Philip H Kass, Eugene Steffey, Richard A Lecouteur, T. A. Holliday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: The administration of certain sedatives has been shown to promote sleep in humans. Related agents induce sleep-like behavior when administered to horses. Interpretation of electroencephalograms (EEGs) obtained from sedated horses should take into account background activity, presence of sleep-related EEG events, and the animal's behavior. Hypothesis: Sedatives induce states of vigilance that are indistinguishable on EEGs from those that occur naturally. Animals: Six healthy horses. Methods: Digital EEG with video was recorded after administration of 1 of 4 sedatives (acepromazine, butorphanol, xylazine, or detomidine). Serum drug concentrations were measured. Recordings were reviewed, states were identified, and representative EEG samples were analysed. These data were compared with data previously obtained during a study of natural sleep. Results: Butorphanol was associated with brief episodes resembling slow wave sleep in 1 horse. Acepromazine led to SWS in 3 horses, including 1 that also exhibited rapid eye movement sleep. Periods of SWS were observed in all horses afer xylazine or detomidine administration. Normal sleep-related EEG events and heart block, occurred in association with SWS regardless of which sedative was used. Spectral data varied primarily by state, but some differences were observed between sedative and natural data. Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Qualitatively, EEG findings appeared identical whether sedation-induced or naturally occurring. The startle response and heart block associated with some sedatives may be related to sleep. Alpha 2 agonists can be used to obtain high quality EEGs in horses, but acepromazine does not promote a relaxed state in all animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-653
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Acepromazine
  • Butorphanol
  • Detomidine
  • Equine sleep
  • Xylazine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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