Series charting life at one of the largest veterinary practices in south Wales. The owners of a tortoise are desperate for his recovery and a new vet gets some hands on experience.
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This time on Vets 24/7,
partner Gareth Field gives a cat a Hollywood smile.
We'll leave him with his pointy canines, they look OK.
So 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, I'm getting upset about a tortoise,
but he's my life.
And newest vet Rebecca Leigh gets her hands dirty.
Gosh, she's got...
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 at the St James Veterinary Hospital
in Sketty, partner Gareth Field is arriving for his first
consultation of the day.
Colin is patiently waiting with his cat.
Tiger Puss, his name is.
He's come in for an operation today on his gums cos he's got like smelly
breath and he's got an infection, which is causing the smelly breath.
It's a couple of hundred quid, but it'll be worth it. Yeah.
-Colin, come in. How are you doing?
-Not bad, thanks.
-There you are.
-This is Puss, is it?
-So you're saying he's a stray, is he?
He was a stray, yeah, and we adopted him in November.
He is chipped and we've traced the owners and they let us keep him.
-Brilliant. At least the owners know where he is now.
-Save worrying. So if we have a quick look at him...
-Yeah, by all means.
-There we are. Oh, he's off!
-Raring to go.
-There we are.
-So he's... What's the matter? He's dribbling...
Yeah, he's dribbling and you can see he can't eat properly.
Struggling to eat, is he?
-How does he seem otherwise? Is he OK?
-Yeah, he's fine.
Let's have a look at your mouth.
-I think it's on his left-hand side.
-It seems sort of quite bad this side.
-Good lad. You can see redness.
-And muck down there.
Probably just have a few out there. Oh, is that side a bit more sore?
Yeah, he's really sore on that side.
You can see that one at the back.
-You can see the root's exposed and things.
-Right, pop him in his box.
-There you are. Straight back in.
So, have a general anaesthetic,
then sort of have a look at his mouth and his teeth.
He's probably going to have quite a few removed.
-Apparently, it's quite common in cats.
-Yeah, very common.
-They often get bad teeth.
-They cope really well.
He'll be able to eat solid food and biscuits,
just the same as normal, after a few days of recovery.
Being so close to the rural communities around Gower,
the vets are constantly on call to visit farms and stables.
Vet Gwen Rees has a passion for the large animal side of the business.
We've just had a call to a horse that's cut its back leg,
I think, going to a competition earlier today.
So we'll go and see what we've got.
In Dunvant, at Bevexe Fach Stables, Faye has been so concerned
about Lilly's injury becoming infected, she's called for the vet.
What happened was, she kicked off the travel boot on this side
-and in doing so, has gouged her leg with her own hoof.
-Oh, I see.
-She's obviously sore there, at the very least.
Oh, you've taken a chunk out of that, haven't you?
You gave yourself a proper battering, Miss!
She's pretty impressively skilled a job
because she's just taken the skin without damaging
any of the underneath, which is
fine cos skin will grow back really nice and quickly.
Fair play to her.
Gwen now has the difficult task of dressing Lilly's wound.
If you're relaxed around them,
they are more likely to be relaxed around you, but saying that,
they're still probably the most dangerous animal I work with.
Hey, hey, hey.
Come on now.
Just a little piece of gel.
Hey, hey, hey.
I don't want this to drop off on the floor, that's the only thing.
Lilly's rider, Amy, hopes that she'll make a quick recovery.
Got a tetrathlon.
That's shooting, running, riding and swimming as well.
About a month away now. And that's at Pembrey Country Park.
So hopefully, she'll be ready for that when the time comes.
I can't imagine that it's going to interfere too much with that.
She'll get a week off work, maybe, but she looks pretty fit, so, yeah.
There we are, excellent.
The vets have been caring for pets for over 100 years
and have five branches over South Wales.
At the Neath clinic,
partner Geraint Jones is dealing with a rather emotional case.
My name's Geraint. Right, OK.
So, obviously, I've had a quick read of the history,
which has come from another vet in Neath.
She's got like a mass underneath over a site where she's had
a previous mammary mass removed.
Right, OK, let's have a look.
Nine-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier Shuggs had surgery to
remove a tumour and her owner Louise is worried that it's come back.
Yeah, that feels like a reoccurrence of the mammary cancer to me.
Looks like it's the underlying tissue that's the primary
-origin of the mass.
-My big concern is she's only had it seven months ago.
-I'll start crying again now.
It can be quite difficult to remove them in their entirety.
And there's always the potential risk of cancer coming back, yeah.
She's nine. She's too old for this.
The thing is, she may well go on and live for another four or five years, really.
-Obviously, there's the cost of it as well.
-That's my big worry.
-At the moment, it's only me that's working.
-See now? This is what I'm really stressed about.
-My partner haven't got a job at the moment.
Are you in receipt of any benefits or anything?
-I went to try and get something, they wouldn't give me any.
-And you're not eligible for the RSPCA clinic?
-I don't know. I haven't tried.
Sometimes, when money is an issue, the RSPCA can offer
assistance to people receiving benefits like working tax credits.
Hopefully, Louise and Shuggs will qualify.
Tax credit, I get.
OK, so you're eligible for the RSPCA clinic, which is help to start with.
What you need to do is pop in yourself, bring proof,
register with them and we can go from there.
-That's all right. Cheers.
It's a situation we see more and more, especially since the economic downturn,
but at the end of the day, we're not a charity,
we're a private business and if we fail to make a profit
and run a successful business, ultimately,
we can't provide the service that we want to the animal and client.
At the main hospital in Swansea,
Tiger Puss is in the dentist's chair.
Give him a second to fall asleep.
As a vet, Gareth has many skills, including dental surgery.
Those teeth there are quite bad, really. Quite manky.
Certainly the bottom ones down here, you can see there's quite
a lot of pus around the root there, so we'll take those out as well.
His pointy canines, they look OK.
So he'll still look tough.
Eight out of ten cats over the age of three will get
problems like Tiger Puss.
Dental disease in cats is very under-diagnosed
because they don't complain about it and they get by with it.
They can have other problems, like septicaemia that can affect the heart and the liver and the lungs.
In the ideal world, you perhaps clean your cat's teeth twice a day, every
day, but realistically, I don't think many cats would let you do that.
So all we can really do is keep an eye on them.
I think we're about there for this side.
-How's the anaesthetic? Is it OK?
-Yeah, he's stable.
He'll probably be eating a lot more comfortably than he has been,
just cos these teeth must have been causing him some pain and discomfort.
There we go.
So, no snapping of the root. That's good. That's what we like to see.
Eight teeth have been removed
and now it's time for a quick scale and polish of what's left.
Laura's just checked. It's orange flavour.
Unfortunately, not fish flavour.
That doesn't only polish to make them shiny and make them look good,
give him a pearly smile, it also takes away any tiny little
scratches that we've done by being in there.
It smoothes them off as well, so it's not just cosmetic. It's important as well.
He can take these home and put them under his cat bed.
See what he gets for them in the morning.
At the large animal clinic near the Mumbles, Colin Williams,
a sheep farmer, has brought in some rams
because he doesn't want them to breed.
Pretty full here today again.
Senior partner Ifan Lloyd is on duty to assist vet Gwen.
Going for my Wind Street tan now. Fit right in!
It's not quite orange enough maybe for Swansea!
These rams have come into the surgery to be vasectomised today.
It's much easier if there's two surgeons working together,
or two vets working together, just makes it all a little bit easier.
One vet can certainly do it, but it's easier with two.
Newest vet recruit Rebecca is also hoping to pick up some tips.
I'm hoping Gwen and Ifan are going to show me how to do it.
Always keen to learn new things.
-It's a very dark one, isn't it?
-No blood vessels round it, but that's definitely it.
-Yeah, that's it.
Really careful cos there's massive blood vessels.
If you cut those, you have to castrate, really.
-Do you like watching operations as well, then?
-Got no choice.
You've got to hold on to them, haven't you?
Now he's had the snip, this ram will be used as a teaser,
to get the ewes ready for impregnation by a fertile stud ram.
Farmer Colin likes to control the conception.
It's good management cos you have
three weeks of constant lambing,
not three weeks of dribs and drabs, then into lambing.
It's a very good system, actually.
For the next ram, it's over to Rebecca.
Take it up as far as you can.
There, that's it, great. Yeah, yeah.
There's a saying when it comes to training up new vets.
They always say, "See one, do one, teach one."
It helps to have a supportive team and just to call on Ifan...
They teach you theory at school,
but it's nothing like actually being out there and doing it.
So from a new vet's point of view, this is where it's at.
And finally, Rebecca gets her vasectomy stripes.
-That's a proud face, if ever there was one. Well done!
At the main hospital,
one inpatient is very keen to be discharged by vet Gareth.
Puss has woken up, very well, as you can see.
Tying himself up in his drip.
Looks quite happy. Wants to go home, don't you?
Tiger Puss has eight less teeth,
but it's smiles all round for this lucky stray.
-He's a wriggle, isn't he?
Here, Puss. Puss.
He wants to go home. Come on, then, Puss.
There's a quick picture of what we took out, so these are his top
-jaw, basically his back ones on both sides at the top.
And his back ones, he's got a couple left behind.
-About half his teeth are gone.
-And there's a little pot full. You don't want those, do you?
I'll just put them in the bin.
Puss. Good boy.
He'll be nice and healthy now and put a bit of weight back on now.
So is he having a tooth fairy treat, then?
When he's better.
-In you go.
-You get to go home, if you get in.
There we are. Watch your tail. Brilliant. Just sort of soft food for two or three days,
-then gradually get him back on whatever he normally eats. OK?
-Yeah, that's lovely.
Another happy customer.
After receiving the gold standard dental treatment,
Colin can take his pet home.
Come on in, just through here.
Arriving to see vet Geraint Jones for surgery to remove her
mammary tumour is Shuggs, with her owner Louise.
She's a little nervous.
She is, isn't she?
-Yeah, she's been like this all morning.
-Really wound up.
-She probably knows she hasn't had her breakfast.
Little monster, ain't you?
Her heart doesn't sound too bad, actually, at all. It's really good.
-Do you want me to take her lead?
I'll use the lead now, just to walk her in, I think.
There we are. Great. Lovely.
Louise has an anxious wait ahead of her,
as her precious pet goes off to theatre.
-Are you worried about her?
-Oh, I feel sick. Absolutely sick.
Yeah, a little shaky now.
Everything will be fine though.
-It's hard leaving her behind, isn't it?
-It's horrible. Hate it.
It's like one of your children, really.
It is horrible.
Geraint wastes no time in getting on with the operation.
The main priority is to
remove as much tumour as you can to delay it coming back.
Tumours like this are more common in dogs than breast
cancer in humans, mainly because they have ten mammary glands.
This dog had a previous surgery seven months ago,
so the mass has actually come back fairly quickly, so that's why I'm
being quite aggressive with removing what I consider to be tumour tissue.
We're actually removing sort of muscle as well.
OK. That's the mass in there.
Shuggs' previous operation means that there's not much skin
left for Geraint to work with.
Now we need to work it out, how to sew Shuggs up properly.
She might go out looking like she's wearing some sort of corset,
we'll tell the owner not to let her cough.
Shuggs will now go to recovery, where she'll be closely
monitored, as she comes round from the anaesthetic.
She's going to be quite sore when she gets up and being a Staffy,
I'd imagine she's going to make a horrendous noise, to be honest.
Staffy's tend to, once they're hospitalised.
There we are. On cue.
The nursing staff will care for Shuggs overnight,
as she recovers from her surgery.
It's morning clinic
and the vets have to be prepared for whatever comes through their doors.
Come in, come in.
All right? I'm Gareth, one of the vets.
-This is Tommy, is it?
Michelle and her son Jayden are worried about their beloved
-We think he's about...80. Between 70 and 80 years of age.
He's a really good age, even for a tortoise, that's getting on.
And he's been having problems with his kidneys and he's got problems with his jaw.
-Can't get his jaw to open at all now.
-Do you think he's lost weight?
I couldn't say, but he hasn't been eating very good anyway.
-Weak, isn't he?
As soon as somebody touches him, he should have his head back in, his legs in...
He doesn't do it with us cos he's used to us,
but normally if anybody else, or if you took him by surprise...
Looking at him, it looks like he's in a very poor condition, very skinny.
I'll go and grab some scales and weigh him
-and see how he compares to last time. OK? Won't be a second.
Michelle's parents gave her Tommy when he was a 30-year-old tortoise.
And the two have been inseparable ever since.
In the Swansea Market,
they used to sell them for about...about 50p in those days.
-God, that's cheap!
-It wasn't in those days. It was quite expensive.
Yeah, he's gone with me through thick and thin.
Everybody's laughing, I'm getting upset about a tortoise, but he's my life.
-Were you three-years-old, did you say?
Many times, I've sat out the back and cried my eyes out to him
for different problems in my life.
Talked to him for hours!
He can't get away, see!
Now, then, Tom.
Last year, he was sort of the bottom end of his weight,
but now, he's sort of... Well, he's underweight. Quite badly underweight.
I think, given his history of kidney problems,
it's very likely that's sort of the problem, it's got worse.
And that makes him quite weak and poorly.
-It's not looking very good for him.
-I guessed that.
We've got a couple of options of what we can do.
One option is we can start trying to treat him, get fluids into him.
-Realistically, he might be a little bit far along the line for that, really.
The other option is considering putting him to sleep. But...
-I'm sorry it's not good news.
Michelle and her son Jayden now have a difficult decision ahead of them.
The practice has provided care
for the farmers of South West Wales for generations.
On Gower, at Kittle Dairy Farm, partner Ifan Lloyd
and vet Rebecca Leigh are teaming up to do some pregnancy tests.
How many cows have you got for us today?
About 26, 27.
On with the arm length gloves! It's a tool of the trade!
Oh, yeah. We're not averse to being covered in muck!
Gosh, she's got...
Fresh and all!
-This one, I think, is empty.
-I don't think she's in calf, there.
So, no pregnancy for the first cow.
Ifan swiftly moves on to number two.
And it's good news.
This cow is in calf.
-There's the actual embryo, itself.
which is an improvement.
They're on a roll.
Yeah, she is in calf.
-When was the service date for this one?
-She's pregnant, Milwyn.
Milwyn is a serial record keeper and nothing gets wasted by him.
All recycling, you see?
And it's good strong stuff, just the job. Write it down.
I've got the cows' numbers here, service, or due date, whichever it is.
And then I can write any comments for each one on those lines.
Next up is a cow who might just be past her prime.
-This one doesn't feel in calf.
-She's an oldish cow, by the looks...
-She's showing a bit of wear.
Poor old lady. Might be kinder to let nature run its course with her.
If she doesn't have a calf, she'll stop milking, eventually.
Getting the hang of it.
For Rebecca, it's been a day of gaining valuable experience,
something farmer Milwyn approves of.
You've got to give these youngsters the chance, spend time with them,
so they can train and learn cos they are the future.
What you learn in college is wonderful, but there's nothing
like having your hand up the backside of a cow and get it all over you.
-That's how you learn it!
Back at the hospital, Michelle and Jayden are coming to terms
with the devastating news about their tortoise, Tommy.
I don't want to put him to sleep, but I don't want to see him suffering either.
I think, personally, it would be kinder to let him go.
-But I'm happy to try if you wanted to.
-No, I think it will be.
We'll have to put him to sleep,
Are you sure? I don't...
-Did you want to be with him at all, at the injection, the sedative?
-No problem. And did you want to leave his body with us?
-No, I want to...take him back.
-Mam, can I stay here when he gets put down?
-You want to come with me?
-No, I don't.
-You don't want to? OK.
Say goodbye to him, then, and you can go outside.
He can't even move his head now, can he?
Going to miss you.
-Where can I go?
If you go out there and go in the waiting room, where you were.
I thought Jayden was going to be looking after you when I was gone.
OK? You can chat to him. I'll give him an injection in his back leg.
It stings a little bit, but... So he might wriggle.
-Where's your leg?
There's a leg.
-He hasn't got very much flesh, has he?
-I'm sorry, boy.
There we are.
-Yes, I know.
-OK? Once he's asleep, he won't feel anything.
It's definitely the right thing.
You just need to remember you're doing it for him, really.
I know. Oh, God...
-All right, then.
-Sorry. Love you.
-Speak to you later.
-OK. Thank you. Bye.
After a difficult day at the practice, partner Gareth
likes to unwind at home, but he has two animals to look after.
See if he's hungry today, or not.
He's not only a pet owner to Jack Russell Scrumpy,
he also has his own tortoise called Snoopy.
Hey, boy. Come on.
There we are. No, it's not for you. You don't want it. Go on, then.
I think he's about 40 or 50-years-old now, belonged to my granddad
who had him from a local pet shop in the Valleys, in the Rhondda.
Unfortunately, my granddad passed away, but before he died,
he said he didn't want Snoopy to ever leave Wales, so as my mum
and dad live in England, he came to Swansea to live with me instead.
Hey? Come on.
I was quite close to my granddad and whenever I was visiting,
I'd go up and feed the tortoise with him
and now it's quite an honour, he's come down from my granddad to me
and every time I see him and feed him, it reminds me of him
and it's really nice.
Being a pet owner helps Gareth get through the tough times at work.
When you've got pets yourself, you can appreciate
the bond that somebody's got with their animal.
It makes you a bit more human and they appreciate what you're saying is...
You're saying it as a person, not just as a vet. Isn't it?
One for you. Do you want one?
If I fed Scrumpy a piece of cucumber or tomato normally,
he'd look at me as if I was stupid, but because I've given it
to the tortoise, he's insisting on eating it.
He's heading home, I think.
He's had enough socialising.
In Cilfrew, near Neath, there's good news.
Shuggs the Staffy's recovering well after her tumour operation.
Good girl! Give it here!
Louise and daughter Alex are overjoyed to have her back home with them.
It's like nothing's ever happened to her.
She recovered so quick, it was unbelievable.
Me and the children are so happy that she's home. She's a pain.
But we wouldn't be without her. Would we, girl? Would we? No!
Financially, it's been a difficult time for Louise.
The RSPCA helped us. They were brilliant.
And they've been brilliant.
And we've been able to pay it, a monthly rate,
which has made it so much better for us.
It's just a relief. A wonderful relief.
I never thought that we would have any sort of help.
As well as assistance from the charity,
Louise herself has spent over £600 on Shuggs' operations this year.
I couldn't imagine life without her. She drives me mad.
About as mad as the children.
-But...they are part of the family, aren't they?
-Ain't you, girl?
Next time on Vets 24/7,
Becky is called out to assist an alpaca in distress.
-I get it halfway in...
-They're normally really placid and don't do this kind of thing!
Exotic specialist Lance Jepson meets a house-proud parrot.
-You take him out hiking, do you?
-He puts the bin bags out.
-Every Monday night.
-Now, that's a useful bird to have around.
And down on the farm, it's major surgery for Ifan and Gwen.
She's a bit big, my arm's a bit short to shake Ifan's hand.
BBC cameras capture 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.
This time, Tommy the tortoise is poorly and it's an emotional rollercoaster for his owners, desperate to save him. New vet Rebecca gets some hands-on experience, pregnancy testing at a dairy farm on Gower, and Tigerpuss is in the dentist chair, but will it be smiles all round for this lucky stray?