The pharmacokinetics of diltiazem were determined in eight healthy horses. Diltiazem HCl, 1 mg/kg i.v., was administered over 5 min. Venous blood samples were collected at regular intervals after administration. Plasma concentrations of diltiazem and desacetyldiltiazem were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography. A second, putative metabolite was detected, but could not be identified due to the lack of an authentic standard. Data were analyzed by nonlinear least-squares regression analysis. The median (minimum-maximum) peak plasma concentration of diltiazem was 727 (539-976) ng/mL. Plasma diltiazem concentration vs. time data were best described by a two-compartment model with first-order drug elimination. The distribution half-life was 12 (6-23) min, the terminal half-life was 93 (73-161) min, the mean residence time was 125 (99-206) min, total plasma clearance was 14.4 (10.4-18.6) mL/kg/min, and the volume of distribution at steady-state was 1.84 (1.46-2.51) L/kg. The normalized ratio of the area under the curve (AUC) of desacetyldiltiazem to the AUC of diltiazem was 0.088 (0.062-0.179). The disposition of diltiazem in horses was characterized by rapid distribution and elimination and a terminal half-life shorter than reported in humans and dogs. Because of the reported low pharmacologic activity, plasma diltiazem metabolite concentrations were not considered clinically important.