According to a December 5 post by UC Davis, cats and dogs who suffered burns in the California Camp Fire are receiving a new treatment to help them heal faster. This is the first time sterilized tilapia (fish) skins are being used to aid healing.
The VCA Calley Oak Veterinary Center in Chico, California is using the procedure first used in 2017 by Jamie Peyton, Chief of Integrative Medicine Service with the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Two bears and a mountain lion who were burned in the Thomas Fire in Ventura County had good results after the experimental treatment. A bear cub also received the tilapia treatment this year after being injured in the Carr Fire.
More than 500 animals have received treatment at VCA Valley Oak, veterinary surgeon Dusty Spencer stated. “Their paws have been badly burned. Their whiskers are singed or gone. Some of them have had really bad burns on their eyelids and nose.”
The photo above is of a four-month-old kitten who spent 13 days roaming the Camp Fire burn area. He had third-degree burns on some of his paws and the pads of his feet were gone when he was brought to the animal hospital on November 20.
Peyton said he would like to train other veterinarians on the procedure, which has a patent application filed on the technology. Peyton stated
“We’re trying to change burn care for animals. Tilapia skins act as a dermal substitute that provides pain relief and protection and helps these wounds heal better. One of the most important things about being at UC Davis VMTH is that we are learning new techniques, but they don’t make much of a difference unless we can use them in the community.”
Sterilized tilapia skin can transfer a healing protein called collagen to the burned skin to help the animal heal faster. Since bandages won’t need changing as often it will be less painful than prior treatment that involved frequent changes.
Peyton uses a special procedure on cats where the fish skins aren’t always sutured because anesthetizing the cat may be too risky. A piece of skin is placed on the injured area (see photo above) and bandages are wrapped around it.
A burned dog named Olivia was treated with the tilapia and saw skin regrowth in five days rather than the weeks it would take with traditional treatment.
The video below is long and details the process. Start it at the 12:00 point to see the actual procedure.
While this may seem like an unusual treatment to heal burns, it appears to be making the difference between painful healing and healing quickly. The treatment should be shared with all veterinarians who work with burn victims.