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Two Bears Were Badly Burned in Wildfires, And Fish Skin Helped Heal Them

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
02/13/18  12:22 PM PST
Fish Skin

Karin Brulliard for the Washington Post

When Jamie Peyton first examined the bears’ paws last month, she figured they might take six months to heal.

Peyton, a veterinarian at the University of California at Davis, had treated cats and dogs with burns before, and she knew these were severe. The two female black bears in her care had survived the Thomas wildfire that swept through Southern California in December, but both suffered third-degree burns that had caused their paw pads to slough off. They could hardly stand due to pain.

Instead of six months, the bears’ injuries healed in a matter of weeks — a quick recovery Peyton attributed to a treatment never before tried on human or animal burn victims in the United States: tilapia skin applied as bandages.

Using fish skin wasn’t Peyton’s first instinct when state wildlife authorities enlisted her help. They had found one bear huddling on Dec. 9 in a backyard aviary near the town of Ojai and the other two weeks later in a nearby wooded area. A third patient, a 5-month-old male mountain lion with burned paws, was discovered in the woods shortly before Christmas. Kirsten Macintyre, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said officials determined the three were candidates for rehabilitation, which meant transferring them to a state wildlife investigations lab near Sacramento. A vet there suggested calling on Peyton, chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at the UC Davis veterinary teaching hospital.

Peyton said she first tried the usual care: cleaning the burns, removing dead tissue and applying ointments. But she knew two very important steps — covering the burns and providing pain control — would be tricky with these unusual patients, which needed to stay a safe distance from people when not sedated.

Read the Full Article at the Washington Post.

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