AVMF & VPRF celebrate the power of research

(Schaumburg) The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) and the Veterinary Pharmacology Research Foundation (VPRF) are delighted to announce the recipients of the 2023-2024 VPRF/AVMF pharmacology research grants. The grants aim to support research projects focused on enhancing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in animals.

Dr. Stephen J. Divers, a professor of zoological medicine at the University of Georgia, is the grant recipient for his research project on safe sedation in birds. Sedation plays a vital role in aiding diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in avian patients. However, the use of alpha-2 adrenergic agonists, such as dexmedetomidine and medetomidine, commonly used for sedation in birds, can result in negative side effects that affect heart function and respiration. Dr. Divers aims to determine if Zenalpha® – a new sedative combination drug – offers improved safety by minimizing these side effects compared to traditional alpha-2 adrenergic agonists. The study will focus specifically on pigeons.

Dr. Divers expresses his gratitude for the grant, stating, “We are so grateful for this grant awarded by AVMF and VPRF to fund our research to study a new sedation medication (Zenalpha®) in pigeons. Our hope is that this research will advance the options for safe sedation in birds and open the door to its evaluation in common pet birds for use in daily clinical practice.”

Danielle Mzyk, PhD, DVM, a clinical veterinarian with the ruminant health group at NC State University, was selected to receive a grant to further her research project on treatment options for relieving pain in sheep. Currently, there are no approved analgesics for small ruminants in the United States. Dr. Mzyk’s research aims to evaluate the efficacy of transdermal flunixin, a recently approved topically applied non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, across different coat types in sheep. Additionally, the research group will develop reproducible measures of evaluating pain in clinical sheep patients using pressure mat gait analysis and algometry.

Dr. Mzyk comments on the support received, stating, “We are thrilled to have the support of the AVMF/VPRF to gain further understanding of treatment options for relieving pain in sheep. Our research group will be able to investigate key factors in the treatment of pain across different breeds of sheep that are clinically affected by foot rot, a painful infection of the hoof. Ultimately, we hope that our study will help improve the understanding of pain mitigation in sheep and encourage the development of effective pain management protocols with veterinarians and producers.”

Melanie Peel, DVM is a Zoological Medicine Resident III at UC Davis/San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. The objectives of her study are to assess the sedative effects and evaluate the pharmacokinetics (blood levels and metabolism) of gabapentin in cheetahs.

African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) populations under human care have increased in North American zoos over the last 30 years due to successful conservation efforts. Anesthesia is often required to work safely with these animals to provide veterinary care. In recent years, a medication called gabapentin has been increasingly used as a method to reduce stress in pets during veterinary visits; however, no studies have examined how this medication is metabolized or if it is effective in large exotic cats. The results of Dr. Peel’s study will help veterinarians better manage stress associated with veterinary procedures and treatments, which in turn will help improve the well-being of these animals when receiving health care.

“The gracious support of the AVMF/VPRF is vital to the success of our research and their contribution will allow us to finish the final steps necessary to complete our study”, says Dr. Peel. “The results of this research will provide the zoological medicine community much-needed pharmacokinetic knowledge that will help improve the quality of veterinary medicine provided to large exotic cats, like cheetahs.”

The AVMF and VPRF congratulate Drs. Stephen J. Divers, Danielle Mzyk, and Melanie Peel on their exceptional research proposals and wish them success in their respective projects. These grants represent the commitment of both organizations to advance veterinary pharmacology and promote the welfare of animals through groundbreaking research.

About AVMF
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) is the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Established in 1963, the AVMF supports animal health and welfare programs, education, advocacy, and research.

About VPRF
The Veterinary Pharmacology Research Foundation (VPRF) is dedicated to supporting research in the field of veterinary pharmacology. VPRF funds innovative projects that aim to develop and improve therapies for animals, leading to advancements in animal healthcare.