Is ketamine an essential medicine or a dangerous drug?

Dr Sheila Robertson speaks out for WSAVA on ketamine
Dr Sheila Robertson


The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has recently decided that international scheduling of ketamine should be rejected. However there is still concern at the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), who believe access to this essential medicine could be threatened.

WSAVA have been reaching out to veterinarians globally in a campaign supporting ketamine as an essential drug for both veterinary and human medicine.

Dr Sheilah Robertson, WSAVA Global Pain Council board member, spoke out at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s (BSAVA) congress in favour of ketamine as an essential anaesthetic.

“Ketamine is a safe anaesthetic which has been used worldwide for more than 50 years,” said Dr Robertson. “It does not depress respiration or the circulation and can be used without oxygen, ventilators and electricity supply and support systems required for other anaesthetics.  These characteristics make it the only anaesthetic suitable for both medical and veterinary use in the developing world.”

Dr Robertson said she was concerned that the loss of ketamine in dangerous situations would effect inoculation and neutering programs.

“Ketamine also has particular value ‘in the field’ for humans and animals and is used to treat trauma, traffic and sporting injuries and those resulting from natural disasters and conflict zones.  It is often the only product that can be used for dog and cat neutering initiatives, making it critical for the control of zoonotic diseases, such as Rabies.”

Threats to ketamine remaining unscheduled are coming from a group of countries, led by China, who believe scheduling could reduce drug dependence issues. China in particular has been facing difficulties with illicit production and intend to continue lobbying in an attempt to decrease recreational use.

WSAVA have also confirmed that they will not back down and intend to keep ketamine unscheduled.

“Together with many other veterinary and medical bodies, we are strongly opposed to moves to schedule ketamine because we regard it as essential for  human and veterinary medical practice and for wildlife conservation,” said Dr Robertson.

“This is a battle our patients can’t afford us to lose so we are campaigning to provide a global perspective on ketamine’s importance to veterinary medicine and to unite the voices of those who support us. Our petition already has more than 5,000 signatures and we urge vets and others with an interest in this issue to show their support by signing it.”

The petition can be viewed here:



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