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The pharmacokinetics and thermal antinociceptive effects of buprenorphine after intravenous (i.v.) or oral transmucosal (OTM) administration were studied in six adult cats. Plasma buprenorphine concentrations were measured using radioimmunoassay in a crossover study after a dose of 20 μg/kg given by the i.v. or OTM route. Oral pH was measured. Blood for drug analyses was collected before, and at 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 15, 30, and 60 min and at 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24 h after treatment. Thermal thresholds were measured before treatment, then following treatment every 30 min to 6 h, every 1 hour to 12 h and at 24 hours postadministration. Plasma buprenorphine concentration effect relationships were analyzed using a log-linear effect model. Oral pH was 9 in each cat. Peak plasma buprenorphine concentration was lower and occurred later in the OTM group but median bioavailability was 116.3%. Thermal thresholds increased significantly between 30 and 360 min in both groups. Peak effect was at 90 min and there was no difference at any time between the two groups. There was distinct hysteresis between plasma drug concentration and effect in both groups. Overall, OTM administration of buprenorphine is as effective as i.v. treatment and offers a simple, noninvasive method of administration which produces thermal antinociception for up to 6 h in cats.