A Canine’s Journey to Healing: Fish Skin Therapy for Severe Burns

In January, there was a fire in Alaska which severely injured a dog named Archer. The firefighters who arrived at the scene saw that Archer was surrounded by flames. Despite their attempts to rescue Archer, the poor dog ran away out of fear. This incident left many worried about his safety.

Luckily, Archer was found by the seaside shortly after the fire and was immediately taken to the vet. Living in a rural area like Haines, Alaska means that emergency veterinary services are hard to come by. However, Dr. Michelle Oakley, known for her work on the Nat Geo WILD show “Dr. Oakley,” is an expert at treating all types of animals in these kinds of situations.
Unfortunately, Dr. Oakley was away in California when Archer was discovered. So, he had to endure a seven-hour car ride through terrible weather to reach the nearest vet who could treat his severe injuries. Once he was stable, Archer was able to return home and begin his lengthy road to recovery with Dr. Oakley by his side.
To care for Archer, Dr. Oakley set up a burn unit in her office in town. She explained to PEOPLE that they started with changing bandages, and it was essential to keep everything sterile to prevent infection.

However, it soon became clear that Archer needed more help than his owner could provide. After speaking with a burn specialist at The University of California, Davis, a unique treatment was suggested involving the use of tilapia fish skins to aid in the recovery process. Dr. Oakley witnessed the procedure firsthand and was amazed by the quick relief it offered Archer, who had suffered burns all over his body, with the worst on his face. Archer even gained the nickname “Archer the Dragonslayer” due to his scaly appearance from the fish skins. With the support of the community and free treatment from Dr. Oakley, Archer received multiple procedures, laser therapy, bandage changes, and more to fully recover. Despite the assistance provided, Dr. Oakley credits Archer’s kind and resilient nature as the primary reason for his successful recovery as he never failed to wag his tail during his many vet appointments. Now, Archer is a happy dog with only a small bald area remaining from his injuries.

Archer’s painful experience has actually brought some positive change by helping other animals in need. Dr. Oakley gained valuable knowledge in treating burns due to her treatment of Archer, which she can now apply to other animals that have been burned in fires. She expressed, “This one patient will help me assist so many animals.” The months-long process of helping Archer heal is considered by Dr. Oakley to be a career highlight and one of the most satisfying cases she has worked on.

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