2023-2024 VPRF/AVMF Pharmacology Research Grant

AVMF & VPRF celebrate the power of research

The AVMF and the Veterinary Pharmacology Research Foundation (VPRF) have chosen three veterinary researchers to receive the 2023-2024 research grants. These grants aim to fund research projects dedicated to enhancing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in animals.

Congratulations to the 2023-2024 VPRF/AVMF pharmacology research grant recipients!

University of Georgia

Stephen J. Divers, BVetMed, DZooMed, DECZM(Herp), DECZM(ZHM), DACZM, FRCVS

Safe sedation in birds

Sedation is common in birds to aid in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. A type of sedation drug class, called alpha-2 adrenergic agonists (such as the drugs dexmedetomidine and medetomidine), that are commonly used for sedation can cause negative side effects that impair heart function and breathing during sedation. The aim of this study is to determine if Zenalpha® has less heart and respiratory side effects compared to a traditional alpha-2 adrenergic agonist (dexmedetomidine without the partial reversal vatinoxan) when used in pigeons.


“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 evaluation of this medication in common pet birds for use in daily clinical practice.”

NC State University

Danielle Mzyk, PhD, DVM

Treatment options for relieving pain in sheep

As there are currently no approved analgesics in the United States for small ruminants, the goal of this project to two-fold: Identify drug absorption and distribution differences in wool vs haired sheep using a recently approved topically applied non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (flunixin). Due to the variability of breeds of sheep across the US, there is a critical need to evaluate the efficacy of transdermal flunixin across different coat types. In addition, our research group will utilize information from pressure mat gait analysis and algometry to develop reproducible measures of evaluating pain in clinical patients.


“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. ”

UC Davis/San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Melanie Peel, DVM

Effective anesthesia for cheetahs

Anesthesia is often required to work safely with African cheetahs in order to provide them veterinary care during illness or even routine health exams. 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 objectives of this study are to assess sedative effects and evaluate the pharmacokinetics (blood levels and metabolism) of gabapentin after giving a dose to African cheetahs.


“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. 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.”