Series charting life at one of the largest veterinary practices in South Wales. Two puppies awaiting surgery on their broken legs may have more in common than just their injuries.
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This time on Vets 24/7 -
partner David Steele performs an emergency operation.
We're very close to the fracture,
so can't really afford for any of these not to work.
Down on the farm, vet Rebecca Lee is wrangling alpacas.
Better than a work-out at the gym!
And exotic specialist Lance Jepson treats a chameleon with
a mystery lump.
Whatever it is, it's better off in a bucket than it is on the chameleon.
From Swansea to Neath, and the pets that they treat, this is a week
in the life of one of the largest veterinary practices in South Wales.
This is Vets 24/7.
Early morning in Swansea,
and as the doors of the St James Veterinary Practice
open for business, a Pomeranian-cross puppy, Mittens,
has arrived, needing vet Sarah Martin's help.
-And she jumped out of... Our arms.
-She jumped out of your arms, right.
And has this just happened now?
Yes, about half an hour ago, as quick as we could get here.
There we go. If you pop her on the table.
-She'll scream like crazy if I put her down.
-That's all right.
We'll arrange her the right way.
-She's just holding that arm in a funny position, obviously.
You can kind of see from her paw that it's hanging a bit more
loosely than it should do. Yeah.
I think what she's done is she's broken
the part of the bone in her leg,
just above where her wrist is.
I know, little one. She's gorgeous, isn't she?
The accident has all been a bit of a shock to Mittens' owner,
It doesn't make you very good to see anything suffering, or hurting,
and she's pretty special to me.
Mittens' broken leg will need to be fixed, so she's
admitted to the hospital and will have to wait for a slot in theatre.
The practice has branches all over Southwest Wales,
and has been caring for animals for over 100 years.
In Neath, Ashley and Leon have arrived with Alfie,
a chameleon who's been feeling a bit off-colour.
Get him off!
He tells you when he wants to come out of the tank and when he
goes on the bed, his spots come out.
It's leopard-print bedding.
But apart from that, he usually stays the same colour.
More interesting than a cat or dog.
He is really fun.
A nasty lump has been bothering Alfie for a while.
-He's annoyed now.
-I hope he's awake now.
-He's gone into spotty phase.
One of the UK's leading specialists in exotic animals is
Lance Jepson, and he knows his reptiles.
Colour change and colour patterning in chameleons is an emotional
reaction, and that's Yemen Chameleon for, "I'm a bit cheesed off."
Alfie is facing difficult surgery to remove the lump.
My main concern is the actual size of it.
We might not have good skin closure in which case,
we may have to suture a dressing over it,
which isn't ideal.
The first thing is to remove this mass as best we can.
Because, to put it bluntly,
whatever it is, it's better off in a bucket that it is on the chameleon.
60 to 70 percent convinced that it's a tumour of some description.
Other possibilities would be an abscess,
but it doesn't look quite typical of that.
There we are.
The bad thing about reptile skin is it's not that elastic,
which means we may well have difficulty bringing that together.
Well, it's coming together
better than what I thought initially it might do.
I confess, it's no work of surgical art.
But, I think I've managed to close the bulk of the deficit.
Now all Alfie has to do is get over
the trauma of his operation.
There are five partners in the practice.
And Irish-born David Steele
has a keen interest in orthopaedic surgery.
He's been called in to operate on Mittens,
the Pomeranian-cross puppy with a broken leg.
And that's basically the front from the dog's elbow to its wrist,
so from here to here. That's about that.
But that's the little plate there,
I don't know if that gives you any kind of idea,
how well you can see that.
So that would go on to the bone.
Looking at it, I'm just a little bit concerned in case there might
be a longitudinal crack down here, which could make the placement
of the implant a little more complicated than we want it to be.
My dad and brother are both engineers,
so maybe there's a sort of family trait in the genes there somewhere,
but, yeah, I quite enjoy working with drills and screws
and metal and maybe it just appeals to my DIY side, perhaps.
Mittens is having an anaesthetic.
And in a little dog,
this is just as delicate as the surgery she will soon be facing.
There are 18 vets at the practice, and being so close to rural
communities, a quarter of their work involves treating farm animals.
Vet Rebecca Lee spends most of her week on the road with her dog,
It's a job that I wouldn't swap for the world,
and I absolutely love it. To be able to help people
and their animals is just an unbelievable feeling, it really is.
But it's not just traditional livestock that Rebecca looks after.
Originating from South America,
alpacas have proven popular with smallholders in Wales.
In Felindre, near Morriston, Steve Hetherington keeps
a flock for their wool and for breeding.
Oh, this is good.
-There we are.
We're giving them a drench against liver fluke.
It's spread in a little tiny snail that lives in muddy conditions.
The young liver fluke migrate through the liver
and cause immense liver damage.
We're using a product that kills off both the adults
and the young ones that migrate through the liver.
This one's called Hermione.
-You know them all individually by name, do you?
And the ones that have been born here, we've given Welsh names to.
This one is Megan. She was the...
She was the first-born.
Steady. Good girl.
A healthy herd is a happy herd,
but they don't always appreciate the vet's efforts.
Generally they're very placid.
They don't like being fiddled with too much, though.
And that's a spit.
Bit of a warning, isn't it?
Generally, they're all right, they tend to kick.
-Whoa! A bit of a kick there. Hey, that's enough of that.
Occupational hazard of the job, that is, being kicked.
-Having a bit of a wrestle with this one.
It's all right.
That's better than a work-out at the gym, that is!
Right, missus, you're done, I think.
Back at the hospital,
Mittens the puppy is about to go under the knife.
Surgeon David Steele knows he has to be at the top of his game.
It's quite fiddly because it's such a small dog, it's very, very young
which means the bone is very soft, which makes it a challenge as well.
And, yeah, this is quite a challenging fracture to repair
compared to some of the ones that we do.
It'll be a painstaking procedure to expose the broken bone.
We have to be very careful, obviously, not to damage any...
Any tendons. It's quite delicate.
That's good. That's good.
This plate is made of medical-grade stainless steel.
It is also used in operations to repair human fractures.
What we've done is we've got the plate on pretty well,
and we've clamped it in place.
What I'm doing now is basically
drilling and tapping a hole so that we can
start putting the screws into the plate that hold it on to the bone.
On a small puppy like Mittens,
David is working within fractions of a millimetre.
We're point one, yeah?
There's a very, very small margin for error.
And we're very close to the fracture site here,
so can't really afford for any of these not to work.
So, I feel a little bit happier now that one's gone in nicely.
We've got three screws in the distal fragment
and four screws in the proximal fragment.
But this is a thing of beauty and science and art
and magic all in one!
It's definitely not just, not just anything, this is beauty.
With the two-hour operation completed,
it's time for Mittens to recover.
And time for David to de-stress.
He's off to Llangennith Beach for another challenge.
It's good fun, it's always quite refreshing.
It's good to be able to concentrate when you're at work,
but it's good to get a complete break.
Surfing is a passion, but being a vet was always David's dream.
I think I've always wanted to be a vet ever since primary school.
I've always liked animals,
and there's never really been anything else I've wanted to do.
Yeah. I'd have been... Gutted if I couldn't have been a vet.
Best job in the world.
Not all pets can make it into the vet's.
This morning, Lance Jepson is out on a home visit in the Swansea Valley.
Peter Bowles's Koi carp aren't looking too good.
He thinks they have a parasite called Costia,
so Lance is taking a sample.
OK. That's fine, just pop that there
and have a look at the gills on this one.
There we are. Good girl.
No, no, don't want you flopping over and going anywhere you shouldn't.
They don't like being handled at all, to be honest with you.
It's just something you've got to do on a regular basis to make
sure that you keep them healthy.
OK. Drop her back in now. Yeah.
Peter is right to be worried.
Last year, he lost his prize Koi carp to the parasite.
So, he's hoping Lance can help.
Costia is a tiny little single-celled parasite.
Because fish immunity is so dependent upon water temperature,
fluctuations in temperature can mean that the immune system
kind of works, then it doesn't, then it works, then it doesn't.
And that can provide a way for parasites to get in
and cause problems.
It's an anxious wait while Lance checks for signs of the parasite.
If Peter has to replace his collection,
it will cost him tens of thousands of pounds.
-We've got Costia again.
I can seem the moving around.
That's a little Costia there, moving around.
Not quite sure which way to go.
Lance will kill the parasite with a salt treatment,
and save the Koi.
And as an exotic specialist,
Lance and fish parasites have a long history together.
Taking parasites off fish when you were 15, seriously?
-So, you knew exactly what you wanted to be, then.
All my mates were going out, pulling girls, getting drunk.
-I'm just pulling parasites off fish.
-Pulling parasites off fish! Ha-ha!
-I live life on the edge.
In Bon-y-maen, Lance's patient Alfie the chameleon is
recovering from his operation to remove a nasty lump,
which was all a bit stressful for Ashley and Leon.
Lance phoned to say the operation went, that's where my heart sank.
It was like, "Uh-oh." I was like, "No."
And he said, "Oh, it's all right.
"He's fine." Phew. Sweat over.
When we first had him back, he was brown.
Took him a couple of days and then obviously his lime-green
started to come out then, starting to get a bit more comfortable.
It's healing all right, isn't it? He's back to his normal self.
Hasn't slowed him down. He's quicker now, he's more sleek, Alfie.
Streamlined, like a proper chameleon now.
It's only the top bit now which needs to heal a bit,
and when he's next due to shed his skin,
most of that will probably go.
Obviously, he's going to miss a few spikes on top,
but you don't need them.
But I wouldn't change him for the world.
Alfie the little dinosaur.
Murph, come on.
At the large animal practice near the Mumbles, vet Rebecca Lee and
her four-legged companion, Murphy, are heading out on their rounds.
In Cwmafan, near Port Talbot, Rebecca has come to see Socks,
a horse with a painful heel laceration that has worried
her owner, Louise.
She pawed the gate and got her leg stuck and cut the back of her hoof.
Hush, hush, hush, hush.
We need to be especially careful because of the structure
that's running in this area here, the tendon sheath.
This flat bit's not got a particularly good blood supply.
I would expect it to die back,
so what we may do is just pop a little dressing on in the short term.
And just give that tissue underneath a little bit of time to heal.
There we go. OK?
The care for all creatures great and small began as a toddler
An ambition arose when I was two years old, as it happens.
We had an old Springer spaniel and he injured his shoulder
and the vet at the time explained the X-rays and things to me, being
a real youngster and from then, I was just sold, I wanted to be a vet.
I'm living the dream, yes!
Not every practice has an onsite hospital.
So sometimes, clients are referred from other vets in Wales.
Gemma Stephens and her dog Daisy have travelled
from Port Talbot for surgery, as Daisy has broken her leg.
She fell down two steps, I think, in the garden.
So I don't know whether she has landed on it awkwardly,
but she has fractured the two bones up into her elbow.
I'm hoping she's going to be OK.
There we are. Come in.
-How are you doing?
-Not too bad, thanks.
There we are. I'm Gareth, I'm the vet. OK?
-I think I've seen you before.
-Yeah, I've met you before.
-This is Daisy, isn't it?
-How has she been at home with you?
Partner Gareth Field knows that this will be a complicated operation
and that there is a lot at stake the Daisy.
It's quite a nasty break.
It's going to be quite tricky to fix, partly
because of the type of break but also she is just so tiny.
Her bones are really small, tiny little bamboo sticks really.
She's broken through this bone here
and down the middle of these two bones here.
This part here has completely come away.
There is a risk that we might not be able to fix it or we might fix it
and it might break down.
If that were to happen then there is a chance she might lose the leg.
There we are, then. Are you going to be good? There we go.
After Gareth settles Daisy in for her operation, it becomes
apparent she's got a lot in common with her next-door neighbour.
Little Mittens, who also has broken her leg, is the same breed
and has the same birthday as new arrival Daisy.
All Daisy's family have come to visit,
as they are amazed to discover that the dogs are in fact sisters.
-That's her sister.
-There she is.
-So you can see the similarities between them.
She's absolutely fab.
Look at her.
Yes, as I said, it's the same leg with the pair of them
-I didn't believe her when she first told me.
Like I said, there's
so many different vets that we could have gone to, right,
and we have actually come from down Port Talbot way to a vet over
here and for her sister to end up in the same vet.
It's absolutely shocking.
This is a first at the practice.
I've not seen two dogs from the same litter, like,
that have been separated and from different families come back,
especially within a day of each other. It's mad, isn't it? Crazy.
At Swansea's Plantasia Centre,
Lance's expertise in exotics is required.
He needs to check on a monkey with a suspected leg problem.
All right, folks?
We don't know which one it is yet, do we?
I suspect it's one of the ones in the back.
That would be just the way life is.
-Come on, then.
These cotton top tamarin monkeys are an endangered species.
It's important for Lance to check the animal's leg without
upsetting the group.
You can see what their environment is.
If you try and catch them with nets, there is a risk of trauma, a risk
of damage and also actually medicate or separating that tamarin from
the group, it can alter the social make-up of the group, which can
then make it harder to reintroduce that animal back into the group.
But at the moment, a closer look would be good.
Finally, Lance gets his chance.
And he can report back to head keeper Nathan.
It looks like it's healed. It looks like it's scarred.
I think what we've got is a healing wound.
It doesn't look open, as such, to me.
I think actually we'll just keep an eye on it.
If you think the situation is changing or
if he goes lame on that leg, so starts showing signs of discomfort,
then I think we will have to bite the bullet and catch him up.
-I think we'll call that a day.
-Thank you very much for having a look.
At the hospital in Sketty,
Mittens is recovering from her leg operation.
And now it's sister Daisy's turn to go under the surgeon's knife.
Partners David and Gareth will have to work together to repair
her broken joint.
You can see this fragment coming off here.
It has just separated away from the bone.
I think it will be difficult generally.
I think it will be doubly difficult just because of the size of the dog.
That's why there's going to be two of us.
Always a team effort in these things.
-Keep each other on the right track.
Two heads are better than one with these things, that's for sure.
If things go wrong, Daisy's leg will have to be amputated.
This specialist surgery will stretch the surgeons to the limit.
But before they even start, there's an unexpected discovery.
-I think this is dislocated further since yesterday's X-ray.
The problem is that this has to attach to this bit sticking out
here now. They are still quite far apart really.
-Quite a long way between them.
-Try and push it through the skin.
Would you like to snap that bone back into place?
It looks a bit brutal, but it needs to be done.
This is basically the piece of bone that has to join back onto here.
-I think that looks good. Looks like it has gone.
-Are you going to hold that?
Although the drill is bigger than the dog,
this is delicate work with no margin for error.
It feels like it is going in well. Feels nice and tight.
I should be able to see it. But I think that's pretty good.
I'm happy with that.
Back in Cwmafan, vet Rebecca Lee is still at the yard,
checking in on her next patient.
A Shetland pony with an embarrassing body problem.
Oh, gosh, he has got quite a patch of hair loss there.
It's quite circular
and the hair seems to come away quite easily from there as well.
I wonder whether this could be ringworm.
This lesion here, I want to just take some hair samples of...
and we'll get it cultured and work out exactly what's going on.
Just pop this into a sample bag.
Obviously, it's got human health implications as well.
We need to wear gloves and make sure that,
when you've handled these, you wash your hands.
Just make sure that you wash up and disinfect thoroughly.
And then as soon as we've got these hair sample results,
we'll let you know.
A sweet little thing, isn't he? He's lovely.
At Cefn Gorwydd farm in Gowerton,
the welfare of horses is more than just a job for Rebecca -
it's also her passion outside of work.
All right, girlie, shall we go for a ride?
Good girl. Easy. This is Pepper.
Pepper is a nine-year-old Welsh pony.
..although by day I'm a vet with St James',
I also have been riding most of my life and...
I met Pepper on a routine visit
and she was perhaps carrying a little more weight
than she should have been.
I got talking to her owner. It transpires she'd been a bit naughty.
She just needed a little bit more education.
So, we got chatting and agreed to ride her.
It's all about just treating her to walk, trot and canter,
just to do what she's asked to do, and she's very keen.
She's been making great strides,
so to do something like this is really rewarding
with my time off work.
Being a vet isn't just about treating animals...
it's also about putting owners on the right path
for caring for their pets.
Daddy used to have butterflies.
Exotic vet Lance has written books on the subject,
and today six-year-old Dillon is visiting with her new pet tortoise.
So, this is Scurry.
I really wanted a tortoise and we read all of your books...
but we got a tortoise.
She might be a boy or a girl.
It's a bit too young to tell.
It does have a very girly tail.
That's what you thought, wasn't it? After reading your book.
But that shell is a lovely shape - it's nice and firm.
And, actually, it looks like a really,
-really healthy Hermann's tortoise.
After Scurry's clean bill of health, Dillon has a surprise for Lance.
Oh, thank you very much, Dillon.
That's a good picture of the tortoise as well. Thank you.
Please can you sign my book?
As it's you.
Now, my writing...is awful.
I hope you've got better writing.
Absolutely my pleasure.
-Shake your hand.
-Say, "Thank you very much."
-Nice to meet you.
It's nice to meet you.
I've had one or two people asking me to sign their books
but not normally as young as Dillon, so, yeah, that was really nice.
As the hospital in Sketty,
it's time for Daisy to be reunited with her owners Gemma and Sean.
I just put her in the blanket.
She's doing really well and we're really happy with her,
and there's been no infection or anything, so it's great.
She sleeps in the bed and I kept turning over,
stroke her all the time and she weren't there.
It's the first time since I've had her.
It was horrible. I didn't like it.
And Mittens is also ready for home,
and gets a chance to catch up with sister Daisy.
There she goes!
You can tell she's had an issue.
That wasn't the reunion I was thinking of.
-She's temperamental, this one is.
And I hope, if we meet again, you're going to be in a better disposition.
I don't think so.
She'll probably be out cold.
Those are things that make the job what it is.
It's the magic of taking an animal, which is unwell and painful,
and being able to do something, hopefully,
which gets it back - that's where the satisfaction comes.
Next time on Vets 24/7...
..partner Gareth Field investigates a mysterious blockage.
This is his stomach.
If he hasn't eaten for three days, that should be empty.
Vet Gwen Rhys is called out to help a 26-year-old horse.
We may have to think about it being the end of the road.
And partner Di Roberts gives Bronson a pedicure.
Polishing his pads up.
Well, this thing's brilliant, isn't it?
Subtitles By Red Bee Media Ltd
This series follows a week in the life of one of the largest veterinary practices in South Wales. For over 120 years St James' Vets have been treating all creatures great and small from their branches in Swansea and Neath. In this third episode, exotic specialist Lance Jepson operates on a chameleon with a mystery lump. Vet Rebecca has to treat a herd of alpacas and could two puppies awaiting surgery on their broken legs discover that they have more in common than just their injuries?