Dog treated successful for burn wounds


Charlie, a 6-year-old Shih Tzu treated successfully for burn wounds at UF’s Small Animal Hospital.

Charlie, a 6-year-old Shih Tzu, suffered from severe burns down his back when he was adopted from Good Karma Pet Rescue by a Miami family. Despite a variety of attempts at treatment, none were successful — until they reached out to a UF faculty member they had read was conducting a clinical research study using fish skin as a treatment for wound care.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Maxwell, a clinical assistant professor or surgical oncology at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, Charlie’s wounds had nearly closed when he was adopted, but his skin was very thin and kept tearing and re-opening to form new wounds that take a long time to heal.

“The rescue did nearly everything they could to help him, including laser treatments, debridement procedures and daily bandage changes, but nothing really worked,” Maxwell said. “He had to live in a onesie and a cone 24/7 because he would lick or scratch his skin.”

After Charlie was adopted, his owners tried everything to get his wounds to heal, including seeking the help of a variety of specialists, over the course of several years to no avail. Finally, the owner reached out to Maxwell to ask if Charlie might qualify as a candidate for her fish skin study, a clinical trial she is conducting to investigate the effectiveness of acellular fish skin grafts for wound care.

“Although Charlie did not qualify for the trial, the fish skin was still a treatment we could try for his wounds,” Maxwell said.

She did a phone consultation with the family, which then drove up from Miami with the plan of spending two weeks here for scar excision and skin reconstruction.

“We did some pre-stretching of the skin the night before surgery, and when we removed the scar, we were able to close the wound primarily without the use of the fish skin or special reconstructive techniques,” Maxwell said.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy was performed post-operatively for a few days and the family returned to Miami at the end of the week.

“Since being home, Charlie has recovered remarkably and can be a normal dog now,” Maxwell said. “For almost four years, Charlie was dealing with these wounds. His mom was doing daily bandage changes at home for almost three years. They are so grateful for having come to UF for care and we are so excited to give Charlie a new life.”

For information about Maxwell’s study, visit

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