Veterinarians at UC Davis are using fish skin to treat wild bears burned in that state's recent wildfires. This is not a graft, but rather a biologic bandage. Tilapia skin has also been applied to the paws of a young mountain lion.
“You want to do everything possible to get these animals feeling better. It’s not their fault they were in this horrible fire and they’re in a strange environment and they don’t know what’s going on and they hurt.”More details and photos.
Giving them a long time to recover wasn’t an option. The team didn’t want to risk having the bears acclimate to people or captivity. Standard care, which would require frequent bandage changes, would also be difficult with a wild animal...
Peyton remembered reading about a group in Brazil that had used sterilized tilapia skins to successfully treat burns on humans. While the treatment had never been performed in the United States and never on animals, Peyton decided it was worth trying.
“The high collagen level in the fish skins helps with healing and acts like a matrix,” said Peyton. “It would act as protection and it was pretty inexpensive and available.”..
“In our view, there was no downside,” said Peyton. The fish skins are even edible, and no reactions to the skins were observed. The mountain lion, which received the same treatment as the bears, ended up eating his.