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RALEIGH, N.C. — A dog from the SPCA of Wake County recently received a life-saving skin graft -- from a fish.
On Monday, Dr. Jennifer Bledsoe-Nix, SPCA Wake’s medical director, successfully performed surgery on Lenny, a homeless hound mix living at the shelter.
Bledsoe-Nix said the center takes on many difficult animal cases from across the state. Lenny's story was especially troubling.
“When we sent him to one of the off-site facilities for X-Rays, they found buck shot in his leg so he had been shot in his back hip," Bledsoe-Nix said.
The injury required amputating Lenny's back right leg.
When Lenny first arrived at the shelter, doctors also discovered a necrotic wound hidden under his coarse hound dog fur. Once the SPCA staff discovered it, they jumped into action.
Lenny was suffering from a large burn wound on the right side of his body. According to the SPCA, his life was at risk and the wound was too large for the doctor to use his own skin.
“There was a lot of infection and a lot of discomfort,” Bledsoe-Nix said. “We were hoping that with topical therapy and antibiotics, it would heal, we started him on medication, but within 24 hours of starting him on medication, it worsened drastically.”
Bledsoe-Nix said she heard about the use of fish skin grafts when they were used to treat wildlife injured during the wildfires in California. During Lenny's surgery, the skin graft was trimmed to fit the wound, placed directly on the burned skin and stitched in place.
"Lenny is such a sweet dog, I mean all of them are, but watching him and his spirit, even with the bandage changes, doing it really really frequently and all that, he has been so patient with it," Bledsoe-Nix said.
Bledsoe-Nix believes the cutting-edge surgery will decrease Lenny’s recovery time in half to just two weeks, reduce the number of painful bandages changes and decrease the odds of secondary infections.
“If it does what it’s supposed to do, this playful dog should have a full recovery. This fish-skin graft is going to be a support system for new growth,” Bledsoe-Nix said.
A spokesperson from the SPCA of Wake County said Lenny's life has been saved twice -- first when he was transferred from a partner shelter that didn't have the space for him, and then with the surgery.
Lenny is currently at the adoption center and is expected to make a full recovery.
"Our end result is always to find them a loving home to be their forever homes," Bledsoe-Nix said. "As soon as he is healed up, he will be looking for that special lap to call his own."