OBJECTIVE: To evaluate effects of medetomidine on anesthetic dose requirements, cardiorespiratory variables, plasma cortisol concentrations, and behavioral pain scores in dogs undergoing ovariohysterectomy. DESIGN: Randomized, prospective study. ANIMALS: 12 healthy Walker-type hound dogs. PROCEDURE: Dogs received medetomidine (40 micrograms/kg [18.2 micrograms/lb] of body weight, i.m.; n = 6) or saline (0.9% NaCl) solution (1 ml, i.m.; 6) prior to anesthesia induction with thiopental; thiopental dose needed for endotracheal intubation was compared between groups. Ovariohysterectomy was performed during halothane anesthesia. Blood samples were obtained at various times before drug administration until 300 minutes after extubation. Various physiologic measurements and end-tidal halothane concentrations were recorded. RESULTS: In medetomidine-treated dogs, heart rate was significantly lower than in controls, and blood pressure did not change significantly from baseline. Plasma cortisol concentrations did not increase significantly until 60 minutes after extubation in medetomidine-treated dogs, whereas values in control dogs were increased from time of surgery until the end of the recording period. Control dogs had higher pain scores than treated dogs from extubation until the end of the recording period. CONCLUSION AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Administration of medetomidine reduced dose requirements for thiopental and halothane and provided postoperative analgesia up to 90 minutes after extubation. Dogs undergoing ovariohysterectomy by use of thiopental induction and halothane anesthesia benefit from analgesia induced by medetomidine administered prior to anesthesia induction. Additional analgesia is appropriate 60 minutes after extubation.