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Here’s how fish skins and a vet’s love helped an injured dog recover

When Archer, a dog from Alaska’s home burned, firefighters found him scorched in flames and covered in burns. They tried to rescue the poor canine, but Archer run away before the firefighters was able to take the injured pooch into their custody.

Terrified, the dog had discolored skin with its face almost burned off from the flames that engulfed him during the incident. Archer ran off and the people who responded to the fire thought he would not survive.

By a twist of fate, authorities found Archer hurt and writhing in pain near the ocean. The Hanes area in the northern part of Alaska with only less than 2,000 population, did not have many vet clinics around, especially one nearby in the remote area where Archer’s home burned.

Dr. Michelle Oakley of Nat Geo WILD Show and Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet was on her way back from California when the fire broke out in Archer’s home. The dog eventually found its way to Dr. Oakley where she took the animal and drove for 7 hours in bad weather to find the nearest vet clinic. By a stroke of luck, the long ride paid off as Archer’s condition improved. But it was only the beginning of the dog’s road to recovery. Thankfully, he’s got Dr. Oakley with him.

Archer still had burn marks all over his face. If not treated promptly, the dog’s life would be in danger. Dr. Oakley set up a special operation only for Archer. “We started with bandage changes and set up [a] burn unit in my office in town, since needed a sterile environment where you can keep everything clean.” Dr. Oakley said in an interview with PEOPLE.

Despite the intensive care Archer received in Dr. Oakley’s vet clinic, the canine still needed help in treating his burns. Dr. Oakley sought help from Davis, a burn specialist from the University of California. He advised an experimental treatment where the skins from the freshwater fish Tilapia, are placed on the dog’s burns to encourage healing.

Davis eventually went to Archer’s hometown in Alaska and showed her how to do the procedure. This experimental treatment was widely used for humans in treating severe burns. In Brazil, researchers trialed Tilapia skin and found out it can ease the pain of burn victims while cutting medical costs where the fish is also abundant in Brazil’s fresh waters.

The scientists at the Federal University of Ceara in northern Brazil discovered that Tilapia’s skin is abundant in moisture and collagen. The skin’s disease resistance levels were found out to be comparable to human skin, thus having the ability to the healing process of burns.

In the course of Archer’s treatment, he donned the Tilapia skin on his body and face and became gained the nickname “Archer the Dragonslayer.” Dr. Oakley immediately noticed the unorthodox treatment’s effectiveness. People from the community sought to help Archer and Dr. Oakley in her vet clinic. She provided her vet services for free as the residents of Haines aided Archer’s medical costs such as laser therapy and bandage changes, among others.

Bill McRoberts

Like a phoenix rising from its ashes, Archer recovered, thanks to the love he received in the course of his treatment. His pink skin and blistering burn marks were fully healed and all that’s left on his face is a tiny bald spot. Archer’s journey to recovery wouldn’t have been successful if it weren’t for Dr. Oakley’s relentless efforts and the help from Haines community.

Ultimately, Dr. Oakley attributed the most credit to Archer’s fighting spirit. Amidst the agony he experienced, the dog beat all the odds. He would always wag his tail during vet visits, eager to become better. This is just the beginning. Dr. Oakley discovered so many things in the dog’s path to healing. She hopes to put her newfound knowledge to help animals who are suffered the same fate with Archer.

“This one patient is going to help me help so many animals,” Dr. Oakley said.

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