Series charting life at one of the largest veterinary practices in south Wales. Can a pet alpaca be saved? A python suffers breathing difficulties and a rat goes under the knife.
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This time on Vets 24/7,
could it be the end of the line for a collapsed alpaca?
I'm mostly worried about his neck or his back.
He's not moving his limbs very much.
Partner Gareth Field treats an ungrateful patient.
Hey! Just bit me. Hey?
And exotic vet Lance Jepson encounters a python in distress.
-Yeah, she's about 6 stone 2,
last time I weighed her.
From Swansea to Neath, and the pets that they treat,
this is a week in the life
at one of the largest veterinary practices in South Wales.
This is Vets 24/7.
Early morning on Gower
and large-animal vet Gwen Rees is responding to an emergency call.
We're in a bit of a rush to get there, something that's collapsed.
There's a lot of things that it could be,
but most of them are things that need to be seen sooner, rather than later.
Oh, that doesn't look...good.
Snap, a pet alpaca, was discovered motionless half an hour ago.
Has he been moving his legs at all?
It's definitely in shock cos the heart rate's very high.
Just going to take his temperature.
The freak accident has been a shock for Snap's owner, Simon.
Ice has formed here on a wet patch
and he's obviously slipped on it and it looks like he's done the splits.
The good thing,
I know that he hasn't been lying in it for too long,
cos there's people coming back and fore all the time.
At the moment, I'm mostly worried about his neck or his back.
He's not moving his limbs very much.
Has he been picking his head up off the floor at all?
-He does respond when I...
-Yeah, he responded when I came up to his head.
He knows we're here, but...
What I want to do is to get him in, I'm going to give him
a big shot of steroids...
-..which will help to reduce any swelling or inflammation
that there might be in his neck or his back, on his spinal chord.
But we need to get him nice and warm as well.
As Snap is taken off for further treatment,
his partner, Crackle, can only look on.
In Swansea, the St James vets
have been caring for animals for over 100 years.
As the practice hospital opens for business,
Georgina has arrived with her pet to see partner Gareth Field.
-Right, I'm Gareth. I'm a vet. This is Batman, is it?
-That's a good name for a little rat. How's he doing?
-It's actually she.
-Oh, OK. Sorry.
-She was meant to be a boy. But she's all right.
Do you want to show me the lump?
She'll be happier if you do it, rather than me.
It's just underneath the armpit, by here.
OK, let's have a look. Oh, yeah. Just there.
-She doesn't seem very bothered by it.
-Has it been growing quickly?
-When did it come up, initially?
-About three weeks ago.
-Hello. You're cute, aren't you?
Rats are quite prone to getting sort of lots of little lumps
and they can get mammary tumours, so like breast lumps in ladies, really.
So we can certainly remove that today.
-We'll do our very best for her.
It's sad to say,
but a lot of people don't want to do this sort of thing for a rat,
so it's nice when you get somebody like her
who wants to do the operation and give Batman a go. Yeah, it's good.
Back on Gower, vet Gwen is busy
turning Snap the alpaca's stable into an emergency room.
At the moment, because of the shock,
it means that all his blood vessels
in the more sort of distant parts of his body
are sort of closing down
and that's not helping with the hypothermia.
There we go.
I'm just giving what's called a bolus,
which is like one quick injection of some concentrated fluids,
which have got a really high level of salt in.
So, treating the shock is basically what I'm doing.
Most sort of deaths in trauma cases would be due to shock,
or deaths in any cases, really.
It's a lack of the blood circulating in the body.
It's more movement than you've done in a while, anyway.
This drip will provide vital fluids
and the next few hours will be critical for Simon's pet.
If he pulls it out, it's not the end of the world
-because he's up on his feet, so he's had enough of it...
Yeah, give me a ring.
I'll pop back this afternoon anyway to check on him.
Can't ask for anything else. In the lap of the gods now.
Just for him still to be here, I didn't think he'd last ten minutes,
prior to calling the vet. So...yeah, touch wood.
Back at the practice,
it's a big day for Billy the dancing macaw.
-How are you?
-Do you want to bring him through?
The Robertson family aren't sure if Billy is a boy or a girl.
Come on, Billy. Let's have a look at you.
Keen to know the truth,
they've brought their parrot to see exotic specialist Lance Jepson.
-Last time, you said you think he's a girl.
-Yeah. But we'll find out...
I hope you're wrong.
-I've got a 50% chance.
-So, you know...
-Why do you think that, Lance?
The reason I think he may be a girl
is actually we've got a bit of a gap in the pelvic bones. Normally...
Basically, it boils down to females have to lay eggs and males don't.
I want to have a listen to him.
Yeah, so I'll go out of the room.
Yeah, OK. That's the way we're going to do it. That's fine.
He pouted at me last time.
-Yeah, that's fine. So, I'll towel him up.
He should be used to it by now, shouldn't he?
Watch that beak. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that.
PARROT SQUAWKS LOUDLY
So what we're doing, we just took blood samples, so we can DNA sex.
The thing about a lot of the parrot family
is that both sexes look the same to us.
Presumably, they can tell the difference.
Now, obviously, Billy here isn't too happy about the whole thing.
There you go. Leave him settle for a moment.
I've taken a small blood sample,
which we'll send off to the lab for the DNA sex.
-OK. Lovely bird. Lovely bird. All right.
-Thank you very much.
Good, thanks very much.
The lab results will reveal all in a few days' time.
Next door, in the prep room, Batman the rat is under anaesthetic
and is about to face the surgeon's knife,
as vet Gareth prepares to remove the lump.
It is quite a delicate operation.
It's obviously a lot smaller than it would be in a cat or a dog.
And there's also the risk that a little blood loss to a rat
can be quite a lot, really.
We're just making a skin incision to start with.
It's important to sort of do the operation as safely as you can,
but mostly because of the much higher risk of the anaesthetic.
So far, her breathing's been very stable, hasn't changed.
Sometimes, I think, particularly for people who don't own rats,
"Oh, it's only a rat. What are you doing this for?"
But she's still a lovely pet and part of the family,
so it's just nice to be able to do the operation
and give her a chance, really.
There we go.
Transfer that into there.
Perfect. OK. So now we just need to close her up.
Rats are notorious for being able to chew their wounds open
and take their stitches out,
so it's important to try and get it as neat as you can,
so that the rat's more likely to leave it alone.
So that's the hope.
On Gower, vet Gwen is returning to check in on Snap the alpaca,
who collapsed on ice this morning.
All right, little one.
Can you sit up?
Not looking much happier.
I'm a bit worried that we're not even trying to make an effort to stand.
He's obviously either hit his head or something on the ice,
cos that was thick ice and he's gone straight through it.
Anything else, he wouldn't be like that now.
Are you able to give me a hand?
We'll just try and pick him up onto his feet and see if he can take any weight at all.
There we are.
We certainly look better now that we're on our feet.
Just leave him go for a minute.
Oh, you want to eat!
Well...you look a little bit better, now you're on your feet!
You're not supposed to be eating.
Getting up and eating is a pretty good sign, usually! So...
I think that's called a Lazarus moment. That's why you do the job.
It doesn't happen often. Well, look at that!
-How do you feel?
The power of the vet, innit!
Aw! I love my job!
In Waunarlwydd, Billy the macaw
is recovering from his visit to the vet.
Loves a Sunday lunch.
But he's got his own bowl, with the seeds and everything.
-But we've taken him out so he can enjoy his Sunday lunch.
-He always loves his dinner.
-He's quiet, yeah.
If we don't put his down when we put ours down,
he tries to come over to us.
Whatever he drops, the dog will eat!
So it saves us cleaning it up as well!
She's underneath him every time he eats. Aren't you?
Billy is more than a pet parrot.
He's part of the Robertson family.
He was my dad's bird. My dad passed away with cancer.
And I didn't meet my dad till I was 15. My dad and my mum had split up.
So, I got quite close to my dad, since I was 15.
The last photo I've got of my dad when he was unwell
was me and my dad standing by his cage.
So, yeah, it means a lot.
I think he's more than part of the family -
he's a bit of my dad as well, like.
You going to dance?
The DNA results eventually confirm
that Billy the dancing parrot is in fact a girl.
Back at the hospital, partner Gareth is making sure Batman the rat
has recovered from her operation.
Just going to check on Batman, see how she's doing.
We've got to try and find her though, somewhere.
Oh, there she is.
How are you doing?
How are you doing?
You're feeling defensive!
Just bit me. Hey? Feisty!
She's all right, isn't she? I think she's awake!
So she's looking good.
Batman's owners, Georgina and James, will have to make sure
she doesn't nibble the wound with those sharp teeth.
There you are. Sorry about the wait.
-Just finishing off the final touches to the buster collar.
-There you are.
-They won't stay long.
-No, exactly. There you are.
-How are you doing?
-She had one little nibble.
-I did hear!
That's the nurse's sort of vague attempts at a little buster collar.
Good luck trying to get that on her!
And basically, sort of scooping it over her head...
Which isn't going to happen.
-Yeah, but that's as an emergency, if need be.
-But hopefully, Batman will live to fight another die.
That was the lump there. So it was a fair size.
It's not the nicest. No.
A bit grim, isn't it?
But we'll keep hold of it, so if you do want it analysed ever,
-we can do it.
It's nice when you sort of do an operation and send them home.
It's always satisfying.
Some patients are just too big to come to clinic.
In Neath, one of the UK's leading exotic specialists,
Lance Jepson, is on a home visit.
-I've come to have a look at this python.
-Yeah, she's at the back.
A rescued 16ft-long python, Baby Worm,
has been having breathing difficulties
and just examining her is going to be a challenge.
-Are you going to come out?
-Do you want to do it?
Oh, and a bit snotty.
Oh, she's heavy, you know?
Yeah, she's about 6 stone 2, last time I weighed her.
-OK. I've got her.
Right, if I can have the business end.
See if she'll take a breath.
Well, there's no sign of any mouth rot.
She's got quite a lot of mucus in there. I'm just waiting to
see if she'll take a breath.
And then we'll maybe get a quick look down her windpipe if she does.
I think she's going to just hold her breath.
What I want to do, while I've got the opportunity,
is to try and take a swab.
-When did she last feed?
-She hasn't fed since we've had her.
-You've offered and she hasn't taken it?
Right, will you take her head, please? OK. Thank you.
A lot of people will buy a snake, which is 3ft long,
and there is that thing about, OK, it grows to 16ft long, yeah, fine.
I can cope with that.
But actually there is no real perception
of what a 10ft, 12ft, 16ft-long python,
how big it actually is
and what it entails to look after it.
We rescued her from Newport and she came back to us then.
But she's with us for life now.
Baby Worm is getting all the care she needs now
and Lance will keep an eye on her condition in the future.
Back at the main practice in Sketty,
there's one little patient who can't seem to stay away.
Batman the rat was admitted overnight for chewing her stitches
and vet Sarah Martin is going to sort things out.
A natural thing for them to do is
if something different is there
that they will try and nibble.
Right, Batman, let's have a little look.
Employing her best Blue Peter skills,
Sarah thinks she's found the answer.
Challenging is the word, all right!
And I think we've accepted that challenge.
That's why we're still here at the moment, trying to come up with stuff.
But yeah, small animal, small wound,
but massive problem at the moment.
Batman must wear this customised collar,
or her wound will fail to heal.
Let's see if we can slide this over her head.
How long it's going to stay there is a different story,
or whether it's going to fit, in fact, may be a different story.
I think if I can get her ears past it, this might be a winner actually.
Just need to stay still, sweetie.
She doesn't look delighted.
I don't think she'll be able to get it off, mind.
At least she's not immediately taken it off,
which is more success than we've had so far.
Vets sometimes don't know what's coming through the door.
-Hi there. Come in.
-One fat cat.
I'm Gareth, I'm the vet. How are you doing?
Jean and her son Jeff are worried about their family cat.
-This is Tiger, is it?
-How long have you had Tiger for, then?
-It was about November.
October the 8th is on it, I think.
He was quite a large cat when we had him.
-I just think that he's got larger.
-He's got fatter, has he?
-He's got fatter, yeah.
-He's just like that, in the house.
-He's not moving.
-He's not moving around much, is he?
That's exactly how he is all day.
To be honest, I'm quite worried about him.
He is big, he's very skinny and it's his belly that's very big.
You can see his shoulder blades are sticking out. There's no fat on him.
Having a feel inside him, he's got some lumps in his abdomen.
They feel like growths, unfortunately.
I hadn't thought of that.
All this sort of lump here is like a... Just there.
That's like a big lump inside him here.
It's in the region of his kidney.
So what you're telling me...
I oughtn't go back with him?
-I'm worried that it's not good news for him, really.
Really, it depends on whether we sort of just spend ten minutes
getting an answer for you and that would be a little scan,
which won't hurt him, it's like an ultrasound scan that ladies have.
I want to be sure for you and him that we're doing the right thing.
Yeah. No way could I just keep him like that.
We'll see what the results are, but if he's not eating
-and he's got no energy.
-He's going to get worse.
That'll be 10-15 minutes.
Gareth is so concerned about Tiger's condition
that he immediately scans him to prove his diagnosis.
-All right there, boy?
There we go, my darling.
That's the lump that we can feel, sort of here.
That is his kidney.
I'm just going to gently do his measure.
In a cat, they should be about that size. About sort of 4x3cm.
That's measuring about sort of 7cm long. So quite big.
And Tiger's blood results confirm Gareth's worst fears.
Yeah, he's in sort of massive kidney failure.
So it all fits in with kidney disease, really.
I think it's bad news for Tiger.
So we'll have to go through and speak to his owner
and I think it might be kinder to let him go, to be honest.
The care of livestock and farm animals
make up a quarter of the vets' workload.
Today, Gwen Rees is heading to the Neath Valley
to curb a young stallion's manly ways.
Storm's already a father of four
and his owner Nicola wants to stop him breeding.
I've had him since he was 16 months, so close on nearly four years now.
So yeah, he's my pet, my baby.
Sedating an animal as large as Storm doesn't come without risks.
OK, if you just give that to me...
If everyone else walks away.
Good boy. Good boy.
All right. Steady, boy.
So if you just basically... like that, really.
I'm going to be in there. Perfect.
I wouldn't change him for the world, to be honest,
but it needs to be done.
You wouldn't want them to go through pain, the same as a child.
They are like our children. So he'll have a lot of love later.
Watch him now, as he gets up.
The main risk is when he gets back up again, so we'll be here anyway.
If you could just sit on his head, please.
-Good boy. Good boy.
-We're almost there.
I'd rather he would have waited maybe one more minute to wake up,
until I was away, but everything else was absolutely fine.
Ready to come off anyway.
Whoa, boy. Not yet.
Storm's a bit woozy after his anaesthetic
and as he finds his racing feet,
he could be a potential danger to himself
and the people trying to help him.
Calm down. Calm down.
I'm alive. The horse is castrated.
I try not to tell people I enjoy castrating things.
I do wonder why I'm single sometimes!
In the practice hospital, vet Gareth's got the difficult task
of breaking the bad news of Tiger's diagnosis to his owners.
Tiger's fine. He's been really good.
-He's just having a cuddle off one of the nurses.
-It's not very good news though.
-Um... Basically, he's in sort of severe kidney failure.
-His kidneys have packed up.
-Most cats do...go that way.
-It's common in old cats.
-It's common in old cats.
-There isn't really any treatment for him.
-There's nothing for him.
No. I think it's probably the kindest thing to let him go peacefully.
-So is that OK?
We'll give him an injection, he falls asleep very gently,
so he won't feel anything, he won't suffer.
Are you going to leave me?
Are you going to leave me, Tiger?
Are you purring?
TIGER PURRS QUIETLY
Are you purring? No.
You've been telling me for about four days, leave me alone.
I don't want to be bothered.
You don't want to see him being put to sleep, do you?
I don't think I want to see you put the needle in.
That's totally understandable. Lots of people don't, that's fine.
-I don't think I could do that.
Sharon will give him a big cuddle and he won't feel anything, he'll gently fall asleep.
And he'll fall asleep. Well, that's all he's been doing.
And I've got to be sensible about it, haven't I?
I love you more than you love me, evidently.
Good boy, aren't you?
Thank you very much for your kindness, all of you. OK?
-All the best.
-And thank you for all you've done.
It's very sad, isn't it?
It's always sad, no matter how many times you sort of have to do it,
but you have to remember that you're doing it for the right reasons,
doing it for Tiger's sake and it's the kindest thing, really.
Animals give lots of joy, but it's always that sad moment
that comes when you have to sort of let go, really.
In his case, I think, if we tried to help,
we'd just be prolonging things and it's kinder to let him go.
All right, my sweetie.
There's a good boy.
There's a good boy. All right, my darling.
There we go, good boy.
He'll fall asleep now. Good boy, Tiger.
There we go. Good boy.
He found a good home in the end. It's a shame it wasn't for long.
Jean couldn't face life without a pet
and a few weeks later she adopted another rescue cat call The Guvnor.
In Bonymaen, Georgina and James are making sure that Batman the rat
is following the vet's orders.
She hates it! She's getting so much stuff stuck in it.
Yeah, you can see now,
that's all she does is dig and try to get it off.
But it is for her own good.
I looked after a friend's rat when I was little and it was amazing.
It used to come and sit on your lap and you could tickle its belly
and it would roll around and stuff. It loved people.
It changed my views on rats, basically.
They're a lot cuter than you imagine.
I wasn't sure about them in the beginning, but I do like them.
Hopefully, I can take that off in a few days when she calms down.
The customised collar worked
and Batman's wound eventually healed up nicely.
Three days after his "dancing on ice" accident,
Gwen is visiting Snap the alpaca
to see if he's ready to return to the field.
All right, Snap?
Yeah, that looks really... That looks fine, doesn't it?
Hey, dude. Remember me?
Probably not. You were pretty outers last time, weren't you?
Right then, boy. Love your hair. It's like mine in the rain.
Come on, then.
At last, Snap and Crackle can be reunited.
# Je t'aime
# Je t'aime
# Oui, je t'aime. #
It's really quite emotional, watching him go back and run over like that.
Oh, look at them! Aw!
Aw, they're reunited at last!
You've got to try and remember the good stories,
because they definitely carry you through the bad ones,
and today's one of those good stories.
Just seeing those two alpacas running towards each other,
I got really choked up!
It was really nice. Yeah, it's definitely a day to remember, today.
I love it. I'm chuffed! Walking on air!
Next time on Vets 24/7,
partner Gareth Field gives a cat a Hollywood smile...
Even with his pointy canines, they look OK.
He'll still look tough!
..70-year-old Tommy the tortoise is in trouble...
He's gone with me, through thick and thin.
Everybody's laughing that I'm getting upset about a tortoise.
..and newest vet Rebecca Lee gets her hands dirty.
Gosh, she's got... BREAKS WIND
In this brand new series the cameras follow 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 episode: can vet Gwen Rees save a collapsed pet alpaca? Exotics vet Lance Jepson encounters a 16-foot-long python with breathing difficulties and Batman the rat goes under the knife, but will the rat live to fight another day?