Several burned dogs and cats are getting an unusual treatment to help them heal from injuries they suffered in the Camp Fires: fish skins. This is the first time sterilized tilapia skins have been used to treat burns on dogs and cats.
Jamie Peyton, from the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, volunteered to help veterinarians when she heard about the hundreds of burned animals they were treating. So far, she’s applied the fish skins on the burns of four dogs and four cats.
“We’re trying to change burn care for animals,” said Peyton. “Tilapia skins act as a dermal substitute that provides pain relief and protection and helps these wounds heal better.”
Tilapia skin can transfer collagen, a healing protein, to the burned skin. It also reduces the need for frequent bandage changes, which can be quite painful for animals."
Unlike the wild animals she has treated, Peyton doesn’t always suture the fish skins on cats because anesthetizing them is sometimes too risky. Instead of sutures, a tiny strip of tilapia skin is placed on the kitten’s paws, much like the spongy centre of a Band-Aid. Bandages are wrapped around it. Peyton called them “little fish mittens.”
“We are seeing increased pain relief. We’re seeing wound healing and an overall increased comfort,” said Peyton.
Fish skins make big difference for dog
An 8-year-old Boston terrier mix named Olivia was one of the first dogs to be treated. She was found with multiple second-degree burns on her side and legs. Her owners, Curtis and Mindy Stark, were out of town when the Camp Fire started and thought their dog had perished when their home burned down. Fortunately, Olivia had been chipped and was reunited with her owners.
Curtis Stark said before the tilapia treatment Olivia was pretty mopey, but she soon returned to her old self.
“It was a day and night difference,” said Stark. “She got up on the bed and did a back flip. That is the first time we saw her acting like she was before.”
New skin grew on Olivia’s leg burn within five days. Normally, it can take weeks for skin to grow over severe burns.
“We’ve been very impressed and somewhat amazed with the amount of healing that happened underneath those fish skins,” said Spencer.
Peyton said there is no established standard of care in the literature for treating animals with burns. She said "The long-term goal is to be able to provide these techniques to other veterinarians, so that more animals can heal."