A Mountain Lion Kitten’s Burned Paws Are Healing, Thanks to a Fish

Among the victims who’ve sustained serious burns during California’s historic wildfires is a 5-month-old mountain lion kitten.

The very thin kitten was rescued in Ventura County by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) as the Thomas fire burned there Dec. 22. All four of his paw pads were badly burned.

The kitten was transported to the department’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory (WIL) near Sacramento. The mission of the lab is to investigate, monitor and manage population health issues affecting the state’s animals in the wild.

Considering his injuries, the kitten was doing “remarkably well” just one week later, according to a Dec. 29 status update on the CDFW’s Facebook page, thanks to Dr. Jamie Peyton, chief of integrative medicine at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, wildlife veterinarians — and a fish.

That’s right: To help the kitten’s paw pads heal, the sterilized skin of a tilapia has been sutured to his four paws to cover the burned tissue.

“The unusual technique — which doctors in Brazil have successfully used on human burn patients — creates a biologic bandage to protect the burn area and provides collagen to help speed healing,” according to the CDFW Facebook page.

“Although the lion will likely eventually chew off the bandage, veterinarians hope it will stay in place long enough to speed the healing process.”

This is the first time this technique has ever been tried on wildlife.

Because of the ongoing treatment necessary for his injuries and the damage to his habitat, the mountain lion will have to be kept in captivity.

Tilipia for Human Burns

Why use fish skin to heal burns? Well, in Brazil, where this technique was pioneered last year, no other human or animal skin, or any artificial alternatives, were available. The country’s three skin banks meet only 1 percent of the demand, Dr. Edmar Maciel, a plastic surgeon who’s leading tilapia skin clinical trials, told STAT in March 2017.

Previously, burn victims in Brazil have been treated using gauze bandages and silver sulfadiazine cream, which prevents infections but doesn’t help the wounds heal. The bandages and dressing must be changed daily in what can be an excruciatingly painful process.

On the other hand, tilapia skin, as it was with the mountain lion kitten, can be sewn around the burned tissue and never has to be changed. Another big benefit that Maciel and his team were pleased to discover is that the skin of this fish contains a very large amount of collagen proteins – even more than the skin of humans or other animals. These proteins stimulate tissue growth and promote healing.

The skin that used to be routinely tossed in the trash by fish farms can now serve an important purpose for burn victims. But it won’t likely be used on humans in the United States anytime soon: Thanks to the substantial supply of donated human skin, it wouldn’t be necessary, Dr. Jeanne Lee, with the regional burn center at the University of California at San Diego, told STAT.

You can check on the mountain lion kitten’s progress by following the CDFW Facebook page.

Photo credit: California Department of Fish & Wildlife/Facebook

154 comments

Renata B
Renata B9 days ago

I am very happy for the kitten, but the abuse remains: the fish certainly didn't want to give their skin.

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Cindy S
Past Member 12 days ago

omg

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Michael Friedmann
Michael F13 days ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Michael Friedmann
Michael F13 days ago

Noted & Signed, Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara13 days ago

th

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara13 days ago

fishing for tilapia kills the vaquita

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara13 days ago

the tilapia is endangered

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Carole R
Carole R14 days ago

I have heard of this before. Sounds encouraging.

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Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

thanks for sharing

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bob P
bob P6 months ago

Fish were also used on a couple of black bears here in California also after a fire. They have been returned to the wild healthy

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