RVC student wins international award for outstanding research into canine pain management

Simone Ku, fourth-year veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), has been awarded the International Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust in recognition of her pioneering work to understand pain relief and behaviour management in dogs.

The International Canine Health Awards recognises excellence in canine research, dog health and welfare. The awards are administrated by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust and include prize money for winners to put towards new or continued research.

Simone Ku is a BVetMed undergraduate at RVC and received this year’s Inspiration Award for her research into the use of the drug gabapentin in canine pain and behaviour management. Inspired by her experiences with her own dog, Smudge, who struggled with Fanconi Syndrome and arthritis, Simone chose to focus her research on the growing need for effective pain relief in dogs.

Gabapentin, while commonly used in dogs, lacks strong large-scale population evidence on its effectiveness and dosage patterns. Simone’s research therefore aimed to provide veterinarians with evidence-based guidelines and clinical benchmarking, enhancing the compassionate care of canine companions. The findings could significantly improve pain and behaviour management protocols, promoting a better quality of life for dogs worldwide.

Simone undertook this research under the guidance of experienced faculty at the RVC and Dr Carrie Tooley as an external supervisor along with the aid of the institution’s robust research facilities and resources. The RVC’s VetCompass database provided a rich data set of anonymised veterinary clinical records that was the engine for Simone’s study. Simone said that the supportive academic environment at the RVC encouraged her to pursue her innovative research and develop a comprehensive understanding of veterinary pain management.

Simone plans to use the prize money to publish her research findings in an open-access journal, attend the BSAVA conference to present her work, create educational materials for veterinarians and dog owners, and contribute to the further development of the VetCompass programme. Additionally, Simone hopes to use the funding to extend her work into a future project where she will explore the use of the drug pregabalin, which could further contribute to the field of canine pain and behavioural management.

Simone Ku, undergraduate student at the RVC and Kennel Club award winner, said:

"Winning this award is incredibly meaningful to me. It not only reaffirms my commitment to advancing canine health but also serves as a powerful endorsement of the importance of research into canine pain management, a cornerstone of compassionate care. This recognition inspires and empowers me to continue striving towards bettering the lives of our canine companions."

Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology and Simone’s supervisor at the RVC, added:

"By winning this award, Simone has exemplified how VetCompass is rewriting the rule book on veterinary research and moving to a new era where practice-based data can be used by anyone with a core interest in welfare to contribute to new discoveries."

About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK’s largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London.
  • It is one of the few veterinary schools in the world that hold accreditations from the RCVS in the UK (with reciprocal recognition from the AVBC for Australasia, the VCI for Ireland and the SAVC for South Africa), the EAEVE in the EU, and the AVMA in the USA and Canada.
  • The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2024.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • The RVC is a research-led institution, with 88% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.

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