Medicine

Bears burned in California wildfires go holistic for pain

Bears burned in California wildfires go holistic for pain

Jamie Peyton, chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital examines burned bear paws.

In the wake of Southern California's massive Thomas wildfire, the CDFW captured two adult bears-one of them pregnant-that had severely burned their paws (in addition to a cougar cub, which was not as badly injured).

Veterinarians working with a California Department of Fish and Wildlife research lab treated the pair of bears and the young mountain lion with grafts of tilapia scales last month and released them a week ago, officials said in a statement.

Both bears had severe burns on their paws.

Bear brought to CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab has severe third-degree burns on its paw. The burned paws were so painful for the bears that they could only sit with their paws off the ground, UC Davis said, and one of the bears continuously laid down to spare her paws. "You want to do everything possible to get these animals feeling better". The team also had trouble getting the bears to eat pain medication.

"That was a game changer for us, because we knew it wouldn't be ideal for her to give birth in confinement", Clifford said. "We knew there was a high probability that she could reject the cub, due to all the stress she was under".

A team of researchers, which included experts from the Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, stitched the skin of tilapia fish - which are widely available and inhabit shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes - on to their injured paws.

According to officials, it was the first time fish skin had been used to treat burns on animals. 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. "It would act as protection and it was pretty low-cost and available".

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She said the family was finding it hard to "balance their patience with their frustration with us and our investigation". For the past six weeks, investigators have been scouring the home, which was only released Friday morning to the family.

"I adore them, but they're wild", Peyton explained. There, Zachos reports, the animals recovered from the harrowing experience with their wounds wrapped in fish skin.

"At this time of the year, most bears have established dens for the winter, but since these bears won't have time to create a den, we hope to improve their chances of survival by creating a den for them so they have a home base and shelter right away", Clifford said. But she knew two very important steps - covering the burns and providing pain control - would be tricky with these unusual patients, which needed to stay a safe distance from people when not sedated.

The younger bear rests in her holding enclosure after her treatment is finished.

Their burnt extremities were then bandaged in rice paper and corn husks to boost healing. At the same time, the animals received pain treatment in the form of acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and cold-laser therapy. All of the integrative therapies help with pain control and enhance wound healing by increasing blood and lymphatic flow.

Treating wild animals is far from easy, says Jamie Peyton, veterinarian at UC Davis who is assisting in their care. Peyton fit biologic bandages made from tilapia skin onto the badly burned paw pads of the bears.

Peyton said she first tried the usual care: Cleaning the burns, removing dead tissue and applying ointments.

Vets carried out the alternative treatments only on days when the bears and mountain lion were already anesthetized for bandage changes or other standard care. Tilapia skin has especially high concentrations of two key types of collagen proteins, which help damaged skin cells regenerate and can even reduce scarring. She also sees potential in using the treatment on humans in countries which, unlike the United States, may not have access to skin banks.


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