Health Care

These bears burnt during California wildfires were healed using fish skin

These bears burnt during California wildfires were healed using fish skin”

One of the bears initially laid down continuously to spare her burned paws, not wanting to stand or walk at all, Peyton said.

Subscribe to Canada Free Press for FREErinarians used acupuncture, fish skins and other alternative medical treatments to help wild animals recover from the burns.

Deana Clifford, senior wildlife veterinarian with the CDFW and an assistant clinical professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine worked to treat the burns, and enlisted Jamie Peyton, chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital to help with pain management.

Putting pain pills in food also is problematic, because there's no guarantee the animals will eat them. Like the pig and human tissues that have always been applied to burns, the fish skin is moist and transfers collagen, a protein that helps healing.

Peyton said she first tried the usual care: Cleaning the burns, removing dead tissue and applying ointments. Also, she said, "if a bandage comes off, you can't really go into the cage to get it".

The California vets stitched the fish skins to the animals' burned paws, then wrapped the treated feet with bandages of rice paper and corn husks, after reading about trials on human burn victims in Brazil that placed treated skins from tilapia, a ubiquitous species of fish, on burn victims to soothe pain and promote healing.

Peyton and Clifford cut grafts of clean tilapia skin and sewed them directly onto the bears' paws while they were anesthesized.

"We made little spring rolls with their feet", Peyton said. Both were soon walking and have been released into the wild. Not so for the mountain lion kitten, which would eat its fish skin after a couple days. They also didn't remove the skin until their next application 10 days later, which Peyton took to mean the bears understood the treatment helped them feel better.

"One animal can change the face of medicine", said Peyton.

So fast did the bears' paws heal that wildlife officials decided they were ready for release in mid-January. Both bears' original habitat had been destroyed by fire, so CDFW officers moved dirt and logs to create separate winter dens for the bears in the Los Padres National Forest.

"We wanted to give her particularly Cadillac accommodations", Macintyre said. The bears were under general anesthesia for the process, so Peyton and her colleagues couldn't be sure how they'd react to their new fish mittens until they woke up.

On Jan. 17, the bears were sedated and outfitted with their final strips of tilapia skin, as well as radio collars and ear tags.

The five-month-old cougar cub was too young to return to the wild, according to the AP's Knickermeyer.

Peyton is excited about the possibility of using the treatment in the future on companion animals and is hoping donors can help make more research possible. But as Elaina Zachos reports for National Geographic, humans weren't the only ones who suffered.

But the creature's original homes had burned, and the team anxious about releasing them into another bear's territory with no den to survive the winter. Previously, she was an global news editor; a foreign correspondent in South Africa, Pakistan and Israel; and a local reporter.

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