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A Veterinarian Uses A Fishy Method To Bring A Burned Dog Back To Life

A Veterinarian Uses A Fishy Method To Bring A Burned Dog Back To Life

Many people can be considered heroes, but this is especially true for veterinarians. Few things are more noble than rescuing a soul in need, especially when you know you’re dealing with someone entirely helpless. 

The story of Archer, a four-year-old husky-greyhound mix, and Dr. Michelle Oakley is a story of two fighters who showed that everything is possible as long as you don’t give up. 

Archer’s Ill Fate 

A Veterinarian Uses A Fishy Method To Bring A Burned Dog Back To Life

In January 2019, Archer’s owner, Cody Hotch’s, home caught fire, and this poor dog ended with severe burns all over his body. 

To make things worse, he got scared when firefighters attempted to save him, running away into the wilderness of Haines, Alaska. 

Luckily, the rescuers found him a few hours later, but this wasn’t the end of his struggles. Due to the harsh environment, there were no emergency services, and the only thing left to do was to contact Dr. Oakley, the star of the Nat Geo WILD show Dr. Oakley.

Experienced in various emergency situations, Dr. Oakley agreed to help the poor dog. There was just a single catch – At the time of the incident, she was on her way back from California without the possibility of coming to Alaska.

Due to the severity of Archer’s condition, this meant he had to be taken on a 7-hour car ride to the nearest vet, who would stabilize his condition. 

Once he was no longer in immediate danger, Archer was able to unite with Dr. Oakley in Whitehorse and begins his journey to recovery. 

A Hope In Sight

A Veterinarian Uses A Fishy Method To Bring A Burned Dog Back To Life

Dr. Oakley was shocked at the state of the poor dog. 

It was a horror show, to be honest. His entire head and ears looked like it had been skinned. Like, completely red and raw and burned. Part of his ear came off in one of the bandage changes. So we lost that. The whole side of his flank was burned,” she said.

To make matters worse, treatment for animal burns was still experimental, and even Dr. Oakley was unsure about how to help Archer. 

Then, one of the nurses at the All Paws clinic remembered that she heard about an unusual burn remedy: Tilapia skin.

Tilapia is a hardy, freshwater fish that’s quite common, although using its skin for burn victims was not something that was widely known.

Fortunately, Dr. Oakley managed to find the person who discovered the treatment: a UC Davis vet and researcher, Dr. Jamie Peyton. 

United Knowledge

A Veterinarian Uses A Fishy Method To Bring A Burned Dog Back To Life

Dr. Payton worked on helping four-legged victims of the California wildfires in 2017. What saddened her was that there was no approved method for treating burns in animals – and she decided to change that.

When it comes to treating human burn victims, one of the options is to use skin grafts, commonly made of pig skin. 

Unfortunately, this option is quite expensive. Most of the time, the insurance companies are liable for covering the costs of treatment, something that isn’t possible for animals. 

After some experimenting, Dr. Payton discovered the next best option: Fish skin.

At UC Davis, she discovered a way to use tilapia skin grafts to treat severely burned animals. The skin isn’t raw but rather dried out and sanitized. 

But why is this treatment so successful?

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    First off, tilapia is full of collagen, which is good for skin growth. It helps skin rebuild around the wounds and grow much more quickly. 

    Tilapia skin can also serve as a protective barrier, keeping the delicate skin underneath safe and healthy. 

    Finally, it appeared that the skin graft serves as a pain reliever – although the exact mechanism behind this isn’t really known.

    Dr. Oakley knew that Dr. Peyton was the right woman for the job, and she never hesitated to ask her for help.

    As soon as I got a hold of her, she was like: ‘Don’t worry, this will be fine! She was like our angel,” said Dr. Oakley.

    The two women united and quickly started working together to find a proper treatment for Archer, with the help of Haines residents who helped cover all medical costs.

    Archer The Dragonslayer

    A Veterinarian Uses A Fishy Method To Bring A Burned Dog Back To Life

    The moment the first skin graft was placed on Archer, the change in his temperament was noticeable. He immediately became a happier dog, and it seemed like the pain ended for a little while. 

    However, this wouldn’t be the end. Archer needed a few more surgeries, laser therapy, and countless bandage changes. 

    All that time, his owner never left his side. After the fire, Cody was left homeless, but he never stopped caring for his beloved pet. 

    Dr Payton said: “This is why we do what we do. I love helping the animals but more than that I love helping the people. Cody said something to me that was so profound. I said I’m sorry you lost your home, belongings. He said, ‘No, I didn’t lose everything. I still have Archer.’”

    Due to Archer’s funny appearance during the treatment, Dr. Oakley gave him a nickname that also signified his strength: Archer the Dragonslayer.

    And strong he was, as this dog managed to endure all his injuries and became a winner. 

    A Happy Ending

    A Veterinarian Uses A Fishy Method To Bring A Burned Dog Back To Life

    Today, Archer is a happy dog. You’d never be able to guess he went through such hardships just by looking at him!

    The only remnants of the scary ordeal are a few small bald spots on his face, a monument of his bravery and strength. 

    While Dr. Oakley helped save Archer’s life, she doesn’t deny that Archer had even more credit than her. His fighting spirit never diminished, helping him survive. 

    Not only that, but he helped many animals around the world, as he helped veterinarians understand all the benefits of tilapia skin grafts. Who knows just how many pets have been saved using this method?

    What a brave doggo!