Irish vet saves cat's leg using skin graft from fish

An Irish vet has saved the life of an injured three-legged rescue cat by using a skin graft from a fish.
Irish vet saves cat's leg using skin graft from fish

Louise Walsh

An Irish vet has saved the life of an injured three-legged rescue cat by using a skin graft from a fish.

Vet Emi Capurro believes it may be the first time the complex surgery, which involved grafting the skin of a fresh Atlantic Cod onto the wound of an animal, has been performed in Europe.

The successful operation was a huge relief for the owners of Lenny the ten-year-old cat, who had been heartbroken at the possibility of having to put him down.

"Lenny came to us with an ulcerated tumour on his front paw which was not reacting to any medication," explained Emi, clinical director and senior veterinary surgeon at Shenick Vets in Skerries.

Vet Emi Capurro with Lenny the cat.

"He already had only one front leg since he was a kitten, so amputation was not an option. We couldn't do a skin graft from his own leg as he was in enough pain already and an added injury would have only added to that stress.

"I had heard about the use of fish grafts in treating burns on wildlife injured in the forest fires in California, so I started researching if similar fish were used in Europe.

"I couldn't find any research on that topic, but I did discover that Cod skin has incredible properties and is full of collagen, which promotes healing.

"So, I rang a fishmonger I know, and he dropped everything to go in search of a fresh Atlantic cod for me. Once I had the fish, I immediately scheduled the surgery for the following day, on March 31st.

"I cleaned the fish out myself and prepared it with a saline and iodine solution to sterilise the skin ahead of the surgery.

"My team and I anaesthetised Lenny and after removing the benign tumour, we put a patch of cod skin over the large four and a half centimetre wound and bandaged it up. Five days later, the graft had promoted the growth of Lenny's own new skin cells underneath and the wound was half healed.

The fish skin graft on Lenny's paw.

"Ten days later and it was like he never had surgery.

"The operation was so successful that we are writing a publication for the medical journal."

Lenny's owner Kathleen Friel from Johnstown, North Dublin has praised Emi and all the team at Shenick for their "complete and unwavering dedication and care for all animals".

"I rescue and rehome cats and Lenny was brought to me ten years ago as a tiny kitten, after being found lying on top of his mum who has been killed by a car on the road.

"I brought him to the vet with what I thought was a broken front leg, but it turned out that it was a genetic malformation and so the limb was amputated. He was also born with an extra digit on both of his front paws, so he is extra special

"I have always kept him indoors but somehow recently he got out for a short time and hurt the paw on his only front paw. The wound became worse and wasn't healing despite treatment and constant bandaging.

"I was told I might have to consider putting him down but then Emi decided to research all options and came up trumps.

"Lenny was in so much pain, his gentle personality completely changed, but thankfully he is back to himself now, and it's only because of Emi and the fantastic staff who never give up on an animal without trying all options.

"I thought I was hearing things at first when she mentioned using the skin of a fish on a cat! You couldn't script it. But it worked and we are so delighted. We would have been devastated to have lost him."

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