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Vets Uses Tilapia Skin to Help Heal Bear Burned Paws

Two bears, eight badly burned paws and one team formed to find the light in California's darkest time.

"Doctor Peyton you have an interest in burns, can you help us out?" said Deana Clifford with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"I jumped at the chance to do," said Dr. Jamie Peyton with the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

The Thomas Fire's path of destruction ends here with these bears. They suffered third degree burns walking on the hot wildfire stricken ground.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital brought the bears to a Rancho Cordova lab and realized traditional burn treatments wouldn't do the trick.

"We really wanted the bears to go back to the wild as quickly as possible," Clifford said.

"We knew that there was something else I needed," Peyton said.

That something else came to UC Davis chief veterinarian Dr. Peyton when researching techniques used in Brazil..

To cover the burns with sterilized Tilapia skins. It's a process never done before in the United States.

"It would provide protection, it would provide pain relief as well as improvement in healing," Peyton said.

"We could be more hands off and give them the time without human disturbance," Clifford said.

It worked.

A few weeks of applying the fish skin combined with integrative therapies like acupuncture and laser therapy, and the bears' bloody, painful wounds are now 90 percent healed.

Peyton's innovative idea and Clifford's support brought the brightness to the burn scar.

"It was really gratifying. The bears looked great, their feet looked so much improved," Clifford said.

"It worked better than we thought, so we're happy with it," Peyton said.