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Johnny gets a unique skin operation


© FOUR PAWS | Marcel Fens

Badly injured dog receives autologous skin grafting at the FOUR PAWS Stray Animal Care clinic in Sofia


Johnny had luck in misfortune: The severely injured three year old Bulgarian stray was missing a big patch of skin on his back and was brought to the FOUR PAWS Stray Animal Care clinic, for emergency treatment in late October. 


However, Johnny's prospects for recovery were not good. “We did everything in our power to help Johnny, but every time we had to change his bandages, he flinched, was very stressed and had to go through a lot of pain. We all knew that it would take months for him to recover”, says Dr Margarita Chankova, project manager for the FOUR PAWS Stray Animal Care Bulgaria.


Therefore, seeking assistance, FOUR PAWS called on professional wound manager, Dieter Ponweiser, who travelled to Sofia together with specialised equipment for the innovative surgery that Johnny required. The equipment was very kindly donated by the manufacturer Ponweiser and Acelity, a global wound care and regenerative medicine company, and without their support, the procedure would not have been possible. Dieter operated on Johnny at the FOUR PAWS clinic in January with the assistance of FOUR PAWS vets.

© FOUR PAWS | Marcel Fens

The surgery went just fine - two patches of micrografts were transplanted successfully on the wound. Johnny woke easily after the anaesthesia and did not seem to feel any pain. During the next week the wound healed and only the outside layer of bandages needed to be replaced. 


Johnny was treated using Acelity’s CelluTome™ Epidermal Harvesting system, a novel device that harvests epidermal micrografts from a patient donor site that are then transferred to a recipient site on the same patient. This procedure is known as autologous skin grafting. In a three-hour long surgery, Ponweiser took micrografts from one area of the dog’s body and transferred them to the wound site in order to aid the healing process. “The main advantage of this method is that the recovery period is much shorter in comparison to a conservative treatment, much less painful compared to classic skin transplants and there is no risk of infection”, explains Ponweiser. 

© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

Before Johnny’s surgery, Ponweiser had only performed the epidermal skin grafting procedure on humans and horses. Although when performed on humans, the procedure does not require any anaesthesia, for welfare and safety reasons Johnny was anaesthetised and carefully monitored by the vet team. 


“We are so happy that the surgery now has improved Johnny’s prospects a lot – we hope that he will be totally recovered in the next weeks”, says Dr Chankova. After his full recovery, Johnny will be offered for adoption.


The FOUR PAWS clinic for stray animals in Sofia is a joint project by the city hall and the international animal welfare charity. The clinic is equipped with highly sophisticated equipment and has a team of experienced veterinarians, dog catchers and clinic workers. It offers free of charge neutering and treatment of stray animals and pets of socially disadvantaged people. Since the clinic was opened in October 2013, the FOUR PAWS team had treated nearly 5000 animals. 

© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

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