1. K-State home
  2. »DCM
  3. »K-State News
  4. »News
  5. »College of Veterinary Medicine researchers receive patent for canine pain relief formulation

K-State News

K-State News
Kansas State University
128 Dole Hall
1525 Mid-Campus Dr North
Manhattan, KS 66506


Dogs need effective pain relief, too — and a new medicine created by K-State researchers is set to help

Friday, Jan. 26, 2024


A team including three K-State College of Veterinary Medicine faculty has patented a new formula to more effectively treat moderate to severe pain in dogs. From left: David Rankin, clinical professor and head of veterinary anesthesiology, Kate KuKanich, professor of small animal internal medicine, and Butch KuKanich, professor of pharmacology. Not pictured: Charles Locuson, a director of drug metabolism at Agios Pharmaceuticals. | Download this photo.



MANHATTAN — As with people, animals can also suffer from different types of pain. Help is on the way, though, thanks to a newly patented formula developed by a team consisting of three researchers from Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and a research partner previously from Vanderbilt University.

Butch KuKanich, professor of pharmacology, Kate KuKanich, professor of small animal internal medicine, David Rankin, clinical professor and head of veterinary anesthesiology, and Charles Locuson, who currently serves as a director of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, or DMPK, at Agios Pharmaceuticals, received notice of their patent toward the end of 2023.

The formula combines the opioid methadone and another drug to enhance the effect and duration of pain relief, Butch KuKanich said. Another ingredient is naltrexone, which helps deter opioid abuse, misuse or diversion by humans.

"This is also the first oral opioid formulation to demonstrate consistent clinical analgesia in postoperative dogs with effects occurring within an hour," Butch KuKanich said. "Another huge advantage of our patented formulation is that it is effective with just two doses a day."

Locuson, who was formerly a DMPK scientist in the Fesik Lab at Vanderbilt University, said it is uncommon to develop a drug combination where the sole purpose of one drug is to improve the duration of the other.

"When you deliver two drugs together, one plus one does not always equal two," he said. "You have to work through every aspect of pharmacotherapy — dosing and disposition, but also pharmacology and safety. We started with a known analgesic we believe has untapped potential in veterinary medicine, so that simplified things somewhat. Then we improved its utility in a novel formulation."

Based on successful clinical trials, the researchers believe the formula could see widespread use for dogs who undergo surgical procedures, both in inpatient and outpatient settings, Butch KuKanich said. Separately, the team developed a long-acting injectable version of the formula that could be used when oral administration isn't possible or in combination with the oral version.

"There's a real need for efficacious oral pain medication," Rankin, a board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist said. "The development of this formulation of methadone is going to help a lot of dogs, and I'm pleased to have played a role in getting it ready for patients."

Up until now, the options for treating moderate to severe pain in dogs outside of a clinic have been very limited, according to Butch KuKanich.

"Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, have limited efficacy for mild to moderate pain in dogs,” Butch KuKanich said. "There can be adverse effects ranging from mild to severe, including gastrointestinal injury, but less commonly, NSAIDs can even cause renal failure and death."

"The ability to provide effective pain control for our canine patients is of utmost importance in companion animal medicine," Kate KuKanich said. "This novel opioid strategy shows great promise in helping us to treat our patients' pain, but also addresses the larger public health concerns of minimizing opportunities for opioid abuse potential in our communities."

Media contact

Division of Communications and Marketing


KuKanich is COO-can-itch; Locuson is LOH-kuh-sun.


College of Veterinary Medicine

Written by

Joe Montgomery

At a glance

A new formula patented by a team including three K-State researchers is showing promising results at treating moderate to severe pain in dogs.