Tilapia skin "bandages" help King the cat

NHS vets use a new treatment for a house fire victim.

Burned cat gets help

Tuesday, December 31, 2019 | NHS staff

King, a young tabby cat, came into NHS on December 21, 2019. He had been pulled from a house fire and is suffering from burns on nearly 50 percent of his body.

Recently veterinarians at UC Davis in California have had luck using fish skin to form an "organic bandage" on wildlife and also pets burned in California's wildfires. The tilapia skin helps provide protection, pain relief and also transfers protein and collagen that promotes skin regeneration and healing. The treatment is used for humans and is cutting edge for animals.

King has a large open wound on his back. Initially our vets were looking at using some of his loose skin, and a graft from his abdomen to close up the area. But burn damage can take time to show, and the wound opened wider as more tissue began dying.

On Sunday, December 29, 2019, NHS veterinarians sutured disinfected Tilapia skin onto King's back, tail stump (it had to be amputated) and legs. The skin will stay on for about 10 days, and hopefully offer his body a chance to begin regrowing its own. More Tilapia bandages will likely be applied to keep his new skin moist and offer protection and more nutrients. King is also being treated with intervenous pain medications that are expensive but much needed. 

This little man is not out of the woods, but we are hopeful this will promote healing and recovery. Dr. James, who was on call when King arrived, would love to be able to get him back to his family. They lost their home and their Great Dane in the fire. This is outside the box treatment, especially for a shelter. But we are determined to offer this guy a second chance! He is young and we believe he will have a good quality of life. The treatment is time intensive and also expensive--but we feel this boy is worth it and we think you feel that way too.

**UPDATE** January 19, 2020   King has gone through several more surgical procedures and is looking good. On December 3rd some of the Tilapia skin was removed, and areas underneath showed tissue formation and some wound shrinking.  On December 8th King had made enough progress that NHS veterinarians made an "advancement flap" that pulled skin from his abdomen up and over some of the worst burns. The last of the tilapia bandages were removed and his pain meds were adjusted. As of this writing he is being housed in a back room of the medical department where he oversees the computer work and supplies. He is able to stretch his legs and walk around -- which he does quite often. This is helping him build up his leg muscles that had atrophied slightly during his recuperation time in the kennels. He still loves his chicken and is very vocal when he wants attention. His family has visited several times and they are so happy with his improvements.  We are hopeful to get him home very soon!

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