Vet hopes for stem-cell miracle to help badly burned pit bull

UPDATE: Readers requested a way to send donations for Bernie's care. Here is the website for the Animal Rescue League of Berks County:

Veterinarians are hoping an experimental stem-cell treatment will help regrow the paw pads on a young pit bull who was left for 10 hours on a hot roof in Reading.

Dr. Boyd Wagner donated his time to perform the first-ever treatment using stem cells harvested from another dog to regrow the pads, which were burned off from the heat on the roof, the Reading Eagle reports.

The pit bull, named Bernie, by the staff at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County was taken to the shelter on July 19 after police found him abandoned on a roof.

An examination found he also had burn marks on his spine and his nipples, which officials suspect were the result of the dog's attempt to take weight off his burning paws.

"I don't think I've seen anything that bad in 25 years," said Wagner, who owns of the Wyomissing Animal Hospital. "They were severe, third-degree burns."

Wagner said he came up with the stem-cell transplant idea after working with Celavet Inc., a California-based biotechnology firm conducting stem-cell research in horses, cats and dogs.

The procedure, performed Aug. 4, was the first of its kind for a canine and required special permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Wagner said.

Police have not yet found the pit bull's owner but are hoping an award for that individual's arrest will help produce leads.

Shelter officials say they are trying to find a foster home for Bernie but do not want to adopt him out until he has fully recovered. 

 Wagner told the newspaper he is not sure how long it will take to determine if the procedure was successful, but that Bernie "seems happy."

 "He's a tough little guy," Wagner said.


Photo Reading Eagle/Jameson Sempey