Series charting life at one of the largest veterinary practices in south Wales. Custard the guinea pig is booked in for a delicate operation.
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This time on Vets 24/7...
Custard the guinea pig's booked in for a delicate operation with Geraint.
Got a very obvious pair of testicles there, hasn't he?
He's very well endowed.
It's an extremely worrying time for Stripey's owner.
Surprising how attached you can get to a goat.
And after an injection, Alex tries to make amends.
Well done! Oh, I'm so mean.
Now you're really sulking, aren't you?
From Swansea to Neath and the pets that they treat,
on duty night and day with the veterinary surgeons
of one of the largest practices in South Wales.
This is Vets 24/7.
Early morning in Swansea,
and partner Gareth Field has arrived for his
first consultation of the day.
Come on! Quick, let's go!
You're on my shoulder all the time,
-Waiting in reception is a volunteer
from the Cats Protection charity.
Hi, Linda, come in.
So who's this little one today?
Well, this is one of our little kittens and he has a bad ear.
Hello, boy. Oh, he's brave, isn't the?
He's a very confident little boy.
He was a little stray.
How long has his ear been bad for?
It's been about a week or so.
I've been cleaning it but it's weeping and waxy.
Can he hear or do you think he's deaf?
I'm not sure. I click my fingers.
-I think he might...
-A little bit?
-I don't think his hearing is very good.
Sometimes white cats can be deaf, particularly cats with a blue eye.
So the white gene and the blue-eyed gene are also linked to deafness.
So that could be a problem.
That wouldn't explain the mucky ear.
They are born deaf, basically.
He could just be unlucky and have two problems with his ears.
-Come on, then.
-Looks like he's bonded to you well, hasn't he?
Don't tempt me now.
Have you got any others at the moment, or are you just fostering?
-I've got four others I'm fostering at the moment.
I am very tempted to keep him.
So he might not like this bit very much.
Good boy, aren't you?
Good lad. That red sort of lump in there shouldn't really be there.
It looks like he might have a growth down his ear.
What we do - need an anaesthetic to have a good look down there,
so we can sort of check the ear fully and be sure what we're dealing with.
And then we can decide what to do from there,
but probably surgery to remove it.
There's different levels of surgery, how aggressive we are.
Good boy, come on!
You get him back.
-You're not a parrot.
-He is a delightful little cat.
It's got to be done, whatever is best for him. He has to come first.
The St James veterinary practice has been caring for animals
large and small for over 100 years.
The team of 25 vets cover the 70 square miles of the Gower Peninsula.
Vet Alex Franklin has spent the last eight years working
in large animal practice.
We're on our way down to one of our farms on Gower, Bank Farm.
We're going TB testing there, so we'll visit twice this week,
once today and once in three days' time.
And check whether we have TB in the herd.
Lovely stuff. Let's go.
Bovine tuberculosis can be a big problem for cattle farmers.
And Tom Roderick's prize-winning Herefords
have failed their last few tests.
There we go. Go on, then.
If it wasn't for the TB, we'd have a lot more cattle.
You can't invest in something if you're not going to sell it
when you need to sell it.
Alex will be testing all 25 of Tom's pedigree herd today.
So the TB test is a comparative skin test,
so we have to measure the thickness of their skin,
check there's no lumps or bumps and then we inject avian tuberculin
and bovine tuberculin.
Give it 72 hours and see what the readings tell us.
Hoping that thing don't shut on her neck.
I'll get both hands ready.
Alex tests nearly 8,000 animals for TB each year.
And it's not without its dangers.
This is the bit where you might get your hand trapped.
Myself, I've only had to deal with crushed hands and fingers.
But you can just imagine, this is a big animal -
if she wanted to throw her head around while I've got my hands near
her neck, she could quite easily crush my hand
and I'd be off work for a little while.
If the herd don't pass the test,
Tom won't be able to buy or sell any cattle for up to 120 days.
Well, the first thing is, if it doesn't pass, it's got to go to slaughter.
We'll have a rough idea, then, by the time she comes back on Friday,
whether we are in with the chance of going clear.
It'll be a long 72-hour wait.
At the main hospital, there's a new arrival.
Heavyweight English Bulldog Hank has come in for surgery.
Come on in, right.
All right, Hank, the bulldog.
Hey, big man, you doing all right, doing OK?
Operating today is partner Geraint Jones.
-Has he been OK since we last saw him?
-Yeah, no problems at all.
OK, fantastic. What I'm going to do is pop him up on the table,
have a quick look at him now before...
Big man, whoa.
There we are. Right, then.
So the background to Hank is he's a rescue dog?
Yes, so he has come into the charity the Edward Foundation,
which is a breed-specific English Bulldog rescue.
And you've got a number of other bulldogs as well, haven't you?
I've got three of my own, yeah, and then we foster.
-Has he been OK with them? He's been settling all right?
-Yeah, really, really good.
That's good, that's fine.
So one of the issues he's got, he's got a very sort of regressed tail.
And there's quite a lot of inflammation in the skin fold around the actual tail.
And it's very close to his back passage so they can get extremely
itchy. So today's procedure is to remove the portion of the tail there,
and create a new sort of, like, stump, I guess,
with a bit of skin over it so he doesn't have the screw in the back end of the tail.
Right, you be good.
OK, marvellous, there we are. I'll pop him into a kennel
and give you a ring in a bit, tell you how he's getting on.
Come on, then, big fella. One, two, three...
Here we are.
Good boy. There we are.
Just down the corridor...
Just hold that.
Olaf the kitten is being prepared for theatre.
Gareth's going to take out the growth in his ear,
but it's not the only thing he'll be removing.
Seeing as he's having the anaesthetic,
we'd decided to take the opportunity to castrate him as well,
so he's having a bad day, unfortunately.
So, he's a rescue cat and he's going to potentially have a re-homing
situation so, understandably, the charity want to have him
castrated beforehand because there's a big problem
with stray cats and overpopulation.
So it's sensible to get them neutered if you're not planning to breed.
So he's only got tiny little testicles at the moment, so it'll be fiddly.
Make a little incision, it starts to pop out.
It's like microsurgery for... There we are.
It's really fiddly.
Usually, they're a little bit bigger when you're doing this, but...
we won't tell Olaf that or else he'll have a complex.
This is all over in two to three minutes, really.
Olaf's getting the top-and-tail treatment.
Time to remove the polyp in his ear.
So that's the growth here, basically.
So now, what we need to do is gently start to see
if we can pull it out of the ear.
There we are. So that's what we wanted. See the little polyp -
that's its stalk all the way down there.
That's what's come out. He had his bits off at the back end,
his ears plucked and cleaned of any problems.
So hopefully he'll go home a new man.
On Gower, Alex is en route to her final call of the day.
It's about a quarter past five and we're just going to see a pig that's...
The pig's owner is concerned that he is uncomfortable and painful and
lame. So I'm going to go down and take a look and see what's what.
When we see pigs,
they tend to dislike vets immensely and make a lot of noise at us.
So, hopefully, this one will like me and we'll get on just fine.
Hello! Hi, guys.
Oh, dear. Come on, then.
All right, all right. I know it's sore.
Oh, dearie me!
All right, sweetheart. It's OK.
Oh, you've come for a little scratch, there you are.
It's all right. It's all right!
OK, there is a wound there on the front as well and I think it's a
combination. Yes, we may well have pulled it and it is sore,
but actually there is a wound as well.
Infection's got in and that's what's causing the swelling.
So we are looking at the need for anti-inflammatories and some antibiotics as well.
There's a good girl!
These pigs may look pampered but for smallholder Ceri,
they're not pets. They're her dinner.
They were booked in for next week, so, yeah,
they've had a reprieve now.
They can have a couple... Yeah, they can have a couple of extra weeks.
It puts a bit of food on the table, doesn't it?
-Grow your own!
-She's going to make a lot of noise when I inject her.
-Yeah, don't worry.
-Oh, you are so good.
-What a good girl.
Oh, well done! That was brilliant!
-Aren't you a good girl?
-Well done, you.
That was brilliant!
No wonder you guys don't like me.
Oh, well done!
Oh, I'm so mean!
See, now you're really sulking, aren't you?
It's got to be done quickly.
It's a knack of the job. If I didn't do it quickly,
she wouldn't get her medicine.
Oh, are we still friends? Oh!
Alex has come to the end of another typical shift as a large-animal vet.
When you're working on farms,
you're definitely grubby by the end of the day.
So, yeah, a nice clean-off washes
the day's chores off and enjoy some evening TV or a stroll.
Back at the main hospital, when the clients leave for the night,
the work doesn't stop.
It's time for Hank's tail removal surgery.
Here we are, good lad. Here we are.
To gauge the scale of the operation, Geraint checks his X-rays.
This is the base here of the back, going into the pelvis.
And then he's got a load of random vertebrae which are fused together
and it has given him this twisted appearance.
And when you think of a normal dog, it has got a big, waggy tail.
These are all being compressed like an accordion.
So it is interesting to see how much of the tail we need to take off,
really, just to remove the problem.
Geraint only performs around three of these operations each year.
These are not that common, to be honest.
Because we are seeing an increase in the population of bulldogs coming
through the practice, I guess, we are seeing quite a few.
I do end up with quite a fair share of back-passage surgeries.
I do quite enjoy them, to be honest.
They are quite satisfying!
Doing this surgery to make a difference.
You know the dog is going to have a better quality of life as a result
of it, so I think that is the draw to this kind of procedure.
Geraint has to work carefully to expose the bones in Hank's distorted tail.
I'm just sort of cutting the vertical body with a saw blade.
It is not particularly pleasant surgery, unfortunately.
We're going quite deep into the bottom of the spine.
There we are. That's the offending article.
That's the screw tail end there.
And you can kind of see the kind of skin and muck and everything that's
gone in there. I just can't imagine just walking around
with something like that on the back end, you can't itch, can't scratch.
So he is going to feel a whole lot happier now that is not on his
rear end. So things are looking good for Hank.
Come on, then, big man, let's go.
One, two, three.
There we are, good lad.
There we are.
Hank will have an overnight stay in the hospital to give them a chance
Definitely more awake now, aren't you, big man? Good boy.
-Here we are.
Just to let you know that Hank's doing OK.
He's just coming round from the anaesthetic.
He has currently got a nurse sitting with them, giving him some oxygen.
So we're going to keep them in this evening now.
We will provide him with a bit more pain relief.
And we will keep a close eye on him overnight tonight.
It's TB test results day.
Can we put the bar in here, please?
Here you are.
Alex has returned to measure the skin thickness of each cow that she
injected with the TB vaccine,
to see if there has been any change.
It depends on what reactions they've had and the difference between them
as to whether they have TB or not.
This one is fine.
It's an important day for farmer Tom,
as the outcome will affect the future of his herd and his farm.
We'll just wait. You never know what's going to come out, do you?
These three should have been gone ages ago.
What would it mean if it's a bad result?
There might come a time when I better get rid of them all.
Again, nothing to worry about, Tom.
I always tell the farmers if I know there's nothing wrong
when I get my callipers out, because they all have little heart palpitations
once these are in my hand. Pushing with all his might.
So far, so good.
But the last animal to be tested is farmer Tom's award winner.
This is Ferrari. The big red one.
She's won a few prizes in her time.
It's a tense moment as Tom awaits Alex's final verdict.
So, that's the last cow and we've had a clear test.
That means that the second clear short-interval test.
And Tom now will have his movement restrictions lifted and he will be able
to sell the cattle. So he'll be able to be a farmer again.
That's very good news.
It's like having a plaster cast taken off, I suppose.
Back at the main hospital and it's all change for Olaf the homeless kitten.
He has recovered from the operation on his ear.
And there's more good news.
-I'm going to keep him!
-You ARE keeping him?
-And I'm going to call him Oberon.
-Shortened to Obe.
That's William Shakespeare, isn't it?
It is indeed. A Midsummer Night's Dream. So he's going to be Obe.
Obe. It was...
It was that one, was it?
Oh, it's looking so good, I can't tell which one it was.
-The other ear looks muckier than this one.
That looks really good, doesn't it?
Fingers crossed. That's hopefully him sorted.
Oh, yes, you're showing me your back end as well.
We get his back end as well.
Well reminded, Obe. He's saying, don't forget this bit.
Oh, that's fine.
Yeah. The castration has healed up nicely.
-There we go, little fella.
He's a little bit special, is he?
I've been doing it for ten and a half years and I've kept one of my foster kittens in that time.
So he'll be number two.
-He is a bit special, isn't he?
He's cute, isn't he?
The vets have six branches across south-west Wales and have prepared
for all creatures great and small to come through their doors.
Come on through.
At the Neath clinic, Geraint's next appointment is with a guinea pig.
So Custard has come in to be castrated?
-OK. No problem at all.
What are the reasons for getting him castrated?
He is going to be, like, with a herd, because his partner died.
He was getting quite lonely and he is by himself. We have a big, massive cage for him.
And we are thinking, he could do with some friends or whatever.
I can see why he's called Custard.
So he has got a fairly obvious pair of testicles there, hasn't he?
He's very well-endowed.
Well, we were recommended - get him castrated
and he can live in, like, a herd and he'll be happy for the rest of his
days, rather than being lonely.
-So, that's what we're going to do.
-With a load of women?
-Women, of course!
Sounds like he's got
it all sorted. He's got a good life ahead of him.
I'll give you a ring later when he's around from the anaesthetic.
-If we have any problems I'll give you a ring straightaway.
-Thank you very much.
No problem. See you later.
He is going to be housed with a load of females in some kind of harem
situation. So fair play to him.
Sounds like he's got a life of paradise, hasn't it?
Large-animal veterinary care accounts are nearly a quarter of the practice workload.
And there are six vets who specialise in this field.
On call for farm animal emergencies today is vet Kevin Jones.
We've got a horse with its leg stuck in a gate or in a fence or something.
So we're trying to get there as soon as we can.
In Killay, Jess the horse's owners found her trapped in
this gate ten minutes ago and so they called the vet.
So you managed to get her out quick, pretty much straightaway?
It was going in that way.
So she was this side of it?
And she put it through.
-She's torn all that straight from there now, hasn't she?
Gosh. Let's go and have a look.
All right, girl. All right, all right.
Sh, sh, sh, sh.
It's very, very serious.
From where it is as well and it's quite close to so many important
structures. And I think we might have to do an emergency referral, really,
to one of the hospitals.
She is insured, isn't she?
-OK. I think that will be best, rather than anything else.
If she's got any involvement of a joint or anything in there,
then it needs to be flushed under surgical conditions, really,
which we cannot do with her in the stable or the yard.
So we are going to have to sort of send her to a specialist practice
Jess is no ordinary pet.
She's a prize-winning showjumper.
We paid a lot of money for her a year ago.
-It is more than money, though, isn't it?
-Of course it is, yeah.
Well, definitely for her, yeah.
With these things, time is the most important thing.
If we can get them early, get them flushed early,
start them on treatment early,
then it's the best that we can do for them, really.
She's very sore on it, isn't she?
All right, girl. Have you got it open?
It's been flushed as best we can, you know, here.
-As soon as possible, really. All right?
All right, no worries. Good luck. Please let me know how she is getting on.
-I'll give you a call later.
-OK, all right. Bye.
Kevin's job is done.
Jess will travel to a specialist equine centre in West Wales to have the surgical procedure.
About a centimetre more?
Back in Neath, Geraint is preparing Custard the guinea pig for his very delicate operation.
Guinea pigs have got a very open canal where the testicle kind of sits in.
And they can retract their testicles into the abdomen fairly easily.
So we're making sure we tie it off fairly well before we remove the testicle.
So, as you can see, proportionally, in terms of its size, it's quite big, a big thing to have removed.
He's very well endowed.
Apparently testicle size is related to how promiscuous the female of the species is.
So I think that says quite a lot about the promiscuity of the female,
the size of that testicle. So, normally after castration,
you still have to leave the guinea pigs apart for about five weeks
after the surgery, just purely because they'll have some remnants of viable sperm
in the remaining kind of structures there.
So it's something that we always make sure we tell the owners
In reception, owners Stephen and Harriet are waiting to be reunited
-I don't know, it was really nerve-racking and difficult,
-We wondered if he'd pull through or not.
I'm glad he did.
-Here he is.
He's recovered pretty well. He's eaten cucumber more or less from coming round from the anaesthetic.
So I'll just show you it.
-There he is, OK?
-There you go.
Oh, my little baby.
Good to see him, Harriet?
Goodbye. Thank you very much.
Ten miles away in Ystradgynlais,
and large-animal vet Kevin is responding to another emergency.
We're going to see a goat now that apparently isn't very well.
I don't know a lot about it at the moment apart from the fact that she is a little bit off-colour,
And she's got red or brown discoloured urine.
Smallholder Sammy is seriously concerned about her eight-year-old goat, Stripey.
It's surprising how attached you can get to a goat.
If we can get her up on her feet.
-There we go.
Good girl. Good girl.
-I got you, I got you.
-Is she able to stand up?
She's very weak, isn't she?
-She's showing some worrying signs.
OK? She's pale, so she's a little bit anaemic,
because she might be losing blood somewhere,
so there's a possibility she could have a problem either in her
bladder, her kidneys or her reproductive tract and she's losing some blood that way.
And she's not a youngster.
And she's not a youngster.
I don't want her to suffer if that's the case.
I would rather...
I know it's a horrible thought, but if she's in pain,
I would rather put her out of her misery than to suffer.
If you don't want to put her through anything,
then putting her down would be the sensible option.
And I think, really, from the signs and her age,
I think I am pretty more inclined to maybe go with that.
You can see how uncomfortable she is and I definitely think you are making the right decision.
She went really lovely.
It was really quick.
It's a relief, to be honest.
She's at peace now.
It's better. It's a relief, really.
It's a sad day for Sammy.
But putting animals to sleep is an important part of a vet's job.
Every one is hard.
You know, when you have done it, you know that that animal was feeling
unwell, is in a better place, definitely.
At the main hospital, it's a big day for Hank.
He's been given the all-clear to go home with his foster carer.
Come on, then. Who's this?
So he looks a little bit strange with his bald back end.
You can see this is a bit shaved-up.
This is the incision here, it's looking nice and clean and dry.
It's been taken flat, so he's no longer got a tail at all, really.
He's been fine. He's just been a little bit stressed, I think,
being here. Good to see him?
Yeah, it's great.
I don't think he agrees.
No, he's not happy, is he?
I think he's sulking. You may need to bribe him when you get home.
A little bit of cheese.
Come on, then, buddy.
Not too keen. You don't want to stay here, mate.
Nothing fun happens at the vets'.
Come on. Let's hoist him up, get going.
Oh! Back on your feet. Well done.
-There we go.
-Good boy. Come on, then.
Thanks very much.
It's all right, no problem.
He wasn't too keen to go, was he?
But I don't know why he wanted to stay - nothing fun happens here.
Documentary series charting a week in the life of St James Vets, one of the largest veterinary practices in south Wales. In this programme, Custard the guinea pig is booked in for a delicate operation, Gareth treats a deaf kitten called Olaf, and will farmer Tom's herd of pedigree cattle finally pass their bovine tuberculosis tests?