Veterinarians from University of California, Davis (UC Davis) used fish skins to treat the wildlife burn victims of the destructive 2017 wildfire in California. The animals recovered swiftly thanks to the fish skins and other unconventional treatment methods.

Wildlife Victims Of The Wildfire

In 2017, massive wildfires made its way through Napa and Sonoma in California. Apart from the multi-millions of dollars in damages as a result of the wildfires, the natural inhabitants of the affected areas were also placed in terrible danger. True enough, animals such as mountain lions, bears, and cougars were not spared.

Last Dec. 22, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) rescued a young, male mountain lion whose four paws had burn injuries. The 5-month-old was observed to be alone and limping. Although he was beginning to heal, his paw pads remained to be injured. Along with two bears and a cougar cub, the mountain lion cub was sent to UC Davis to be treated by its veterinary team.

Tilapia Fish Skin Bandages

Because their patients were wild animals, the team had certain circumstances to work around to properly treat the animals. They had to sedate the animals to treat them, but could not do so frequently as it could affect their health. Moreover, they also couldn't opt to place cloth bandages on the animals' burned paws because there is a risk of them chewing and eating it, which could then cause dangerous intestinal blockage.

Still, the veterinarians found a work around that is unconventional yet effective — Tilapia fish skin. After sterilizing the fish skin for several days as per the cold sterilization protocol, they anesthetized the animals to prepare for surgery and placed the Tilapia skin depending on the size of the injury.

Unconventional Methods

Apart from using Tilapia skin, the veterinarians also used other unconventional methods such as acupuncture and chiropractic treatment in combination with traditional medicine to treat the animals. For instance, Jamie Peyton, chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at UC Davis also used a salve made of honey, beeswax, coconut oil, and olive oil to treat the mountain lion cub's paws.

"We push people to think outside the boundaries," said Peyton, who also expressed her excitement about the possibilities of using Tilapia skin for future treatments. So far, the cougar cub is doing well and so is the mountain lion cub, and the two bears have already been released last Jan. 17.

Why Tilapia Fish Skin?

Just like human skin, Tilapia skin contains collagen proteins which help in scarring and faster healing. In fact, doctors in Brazil have been successfully testing this method out on human burn victims. Apart from being effective in helping the wounds to heal faster, some patients even feel less pain and do not require any more pain medications.

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