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Tilapia skin bandage used to treat Omaha cat with severe burns

Posted at 10:34 PM, Dec 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-30 23:34:00-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Emergency responders pulled a young cat with severely scorched skin from a burning home more than a week ago.

Instead of covering the animal in typical bandages, Nebraska Humane Society vets are using a more effective band- aid: tilapia skin.

"If it works like it should, it should granulate in and should get new tissue growing there," Dr. Katie Jame with the Nebraska Humane Society said.

The Omaha cat, King, was rescued from the fiery home with roughly 50% of his body burned. Within days his skin started falling off.

Dr. James says regular treatment options weren't working and they needed to find something new.

"Turns out it's hard to find fresh fish in Nebraska.," Dr. James said.

She, along with a team of other doctors, looked into 'organic bandages' used on animals burned in the California wildfires.

Dr. Amber Horn, another NHS vet, said the research she read seemed promising.

"It actually protects the burn area from basically getting desiccated or drying out," Dr. Horn said. "It's also going to give some healing properties. It has collagen in it that helps the healing process."

She went to a local fish market, found tilapia, the team filleted the fish, King was prepped for surgery and they stitched the skin on.

This was their first time using this treatment, and they say it's been a success so far.

"We are hoping that his healing time is shortened and that he experiences less pain because of the tilapia," Dr. Horn said.

The team of NHS doctors say King still has a long road of healing. In the next ten days, they will take of the tilapia skin and hopefully see re-growth.

According to Dr. James, King is in pain, but she believes he is not suffering.

King's tail was amputated because burns were so deep it hit bone.

The team at NHS believes the fish could be a game changer when treating not only King, but other animals.

"Regular bandages become soiled and sort of a breeding ground for bacteria," Dr. James said. "Skin in general has some anti-bacteria properties that resist bacterial infection a little bit longer."

King will remain at the humane society under a close eye by the experts. If healing goes as planned, he will eventually be returned to his family.