Medetomidine, a potent alpha 2-adrenoceptor agonist, was investigated in open, multicenter clinical trials with patients of various canine and feline breeds (1736 dogs and 678 cats). The purpose of the study was to find an optimal dose of medetomidine for sedation and analgesia in clinical practice and to study how well the intended procedure could be performed under the influence of the drug. The mean dose (i.m.) of medetomidine used for examinations, clinical procedures and minor surgical interventions was 40 micrograms/kg, and for radiography 30 micrograms/kg. In cats the dose was 80-110 micrograms/kg. On the doses chosen, almost all animals were recumbent and 72% of the dogs and 85% of the cats were in a slight anaesthetic stage, unable to rise. The evaluation of the overall suitability of medetomidine (% of cases) in different indications was "very satisfactory" or "satisfactory" in 95% of dogs and 81-96% of cats. Side effects reported were limited almost exclusively to vomiting and muscle jerking in dogs (12% and 0.5% of the cases) and to vomiting in cats (65%). Medetomidine seems to suffice for pharmacological restraint of dogs and cats. The concomitant use of medetomidine (80-100 micrograms/kg) and ketamine (7 mg/kg) in cats (n = 295) provided a good anaesthesia (20-40 min). The recovery was smooth. The present study shows that medetomidine provides an effective level of sedation and analgesia for clinical use.