What would you say if someone told you the fastest way to heal a wound was to pack it with sugar? And what if you lived In the tropics, where infections run rampant and wounds are slow to heal under optimum conditions?
If you are like me, a nurse, at best you would be skeptical and at worst you’d probably think the person was off their rocker. But this is exactly what our vet, Dr. Marco Mora of MediPet Veterinaria, told me to put on our little male basenji’s nasty abrasion. He got it from a terrible accident a week ago last Monday. And when I say nasty, I mean about half the back of his left hind foot was missing, tendons and bone exposed, and penetrating through two of his toes. A gaping hole.
All I could think of when Mora suggested a sugar treatment for a pus infected abrasion was a giant magnet for flies and bacteria, but he assured me this would not be the case. “You are going to be doing the treatment and you are going to see just how effective it is,” he said.
Before I agreed to this, I did some quick research. Chacho’s foot needed rapid treatment; there was no time to waste. Ah, the Inter-webs and their infinite search possibilities.
The method goes back 4000 years to the Egyptians who, it turns out, used honey to treat battle wounds. In fact, according to this New York Times article, the sugar system only fell out of favor with the advent of modern antibiotics.
It seems the sweet stuff has several things going for it.
• It covers the wound completely, protecting it from flies and other external pests
• It is highly osmotic. Hold on. I know this sounds technical, but think about it. Have you ever left sugar out on the counter by accident and found in the morning it had turned to a puddle of water? This is because it absorbs water from the atmosphere. Anything that has a higher osmolarity pulls fluid from a substance that has a lower osmolarity. What does this mean for wound healing? It means that the sugar (or honey) pulls fluid from, not only the wound, but also organisms that might infect that wound, making it a natural bactericidal.
• As stated above, it pulls fluid, reduces swelling, dries the wound, which in turn promotes healing by attracting macrophages—our body’s good guys who come to clean up an area when alerted to a break in the skin, or any infection.
• It increases epithelial tissue growth, i.e. meat and skin.
• It provides a cellular energy source. Growth
According to one site I visited there are negatives, and I suppose to be impartial I will list these here:
• Granulated sugar must be 1 cm thick and be bandaged. No drawback so far.
• Because of the osmolality, the treatment can result in dehydration, protein and electrolyte imbalance. Okay, this is worth looking into.
• The bandages should be changed twice daily to keep the osmolality gradient. Fine.
Well, after four days the chasm in my dog’s hind foot has closed to about two-thirds the size of the original injury. (Photos—before and after— are discreetly placed at the end of this post for those who can stomach this sort of thing).
I have noticed Chacho is a bit constipated. That may be due to dehydration, but it could also be because he is taking Tramadol® for pain, twice a day before dressing changes. Anyone who has ever taken an opiate pain reliever knows that constipation is part of the package. I doubt a basenji would eat prunes, so I just offer him water frequently. I am also feeding him a high-protein dry dog food mixed with cooked and ground chicken parts (home made). I think I will buy him some electrolyte supplements, which would augment any losses he might suffer from the treatment. It would also benefit his fractured bone on the other hind leg. (It was a major accident).
He is healing, bright as a button—even dealing well with the somewhat Elizabethan collar the vet placed to keep him from chewing on the wound. I think he will recover to walk and run again, if not exactly like before, at least a good imitation of that cocky trot he had.
Here is the recipe for his treatment:
2% Betadine (povidone iodine) diluted to half strength with sterile water (this is important, because undiluted, the iodine will actually damage the tissues)
White table sugar— about a teaspoon on a 4 x 4 gauze dressing
4 x 4 gauze dressings
After carefully rinsing his wound with sterile water (I’m using sodium chloride I got from the vet), I spray betadine on the open wound. I place about a teaspoon of white sugar on a sterile 4 x 4, spray it with betadine until it is well saturated, and carefully wrap it around the injured area. Then I wrap the leg with gauze, and cover with another wrap of Coban to protect it from feces, urine, and dirt. It also keeps him from chewing on the dressings.
We do this twice a day.
He is an okay patient; I’ve had worse. Although, I have to admit, no wuss in the ER ever bit me. He has done it twice now. But I know he didn’t mean to; it is all very confusing, he is scared, vulnerable, and it HURTS.
Wound on 09 March 2013
Four days later, 12 March 2013
17 March 2013
Notice the pink around the wound as it begins to grow derma.
And here, 12 April, after one month of treatment, Chacho’s foot almost completely healed, skin fully formed and the hair has grown back on his leg.
Livestrong: How to Use Sugar to Heal Wounds
Ferrier’s Journal- Sound Hooves-Sugardine