A week of goodbyes but work goes on as normal

IT has been a week of goodbyes for many of us.

While we’re still consulting in Morpeth, the theatres and wards there are now closed, with the work temporarily moved to our branches at Ashington and Blyth.

It is the last most of us will see of 44 Staithes Lane, although some will be back following the opening of our new town centre clinic next to the new supermarket.

We also said goodbye to Sarah Jones, one of our Registered Nurses. Sarah is a fantastic nurse and will be much missed by us all. She is off to the PDSA in Newcastle, we wish her well.

Sarah’s last day brought with it the usual Friday afternoon rush, including a couple of the more unpleasant cases of the week, and ones she won’t forget in a hurry.

Fly strike is a devastating condition that, in domestic pets, is mostly associated with rabbits. And indeed it was so just before lunchtime (somehow these cases always are) that poor little Flopsy presented to us. At this point, I would urge you to move on to the next article if you are of a queasy disposition.

Flies are attracted to the warm, moist environments around the bottoms of some rabbits at this time of year (usually those who have loose faeces because of a poor diet) and it is here that they then choose to lay their eggs.

Fly larvae will hatch into maggots that can invade and cause horrific damage to skin and underlying tissues. A rabbit can enter a state of shock in less than 24 hours following fly strike, and often this is first time an owner will notice the problem. And it is often too late.

Treatment involves painstakingly removing sometimes hundreds of maggots from the affected rabbit, treating the wounds left behind and the toxins that cause the shock. Thankfully Flopsy survived her ordeal, but many are not so lucky.

Prevention of fly strike is easy. Firstly, an appropriate diet – at least 80 per cent grass or good quality hay –– will help gut function and the production of hard faecal pellets. It also means there is less chance of obesity so a rabbit can easily eat its caecotrophs (the soft faeces that must be re-digested by rabbits).

We can also supply a number of different fly prevention treatments. But above all, it is vital to check a rabbit over (and under) at least twice a day for signs of faecal matter, urine soaking, or fly eggs.

Once stomachs were calmed, a fine goodbye lunch was eventually had, but the afternoon brought the day’s second fly strike case.

This one, rather more unusually, was a cat.

Bob was a large and very proud looking un-neutered male cat, brought to us by the lady who had been feeding him intermittently for the last year or so.

Like many of these cats, he would disappear for days at a time, no doubt wandering in search of a mate or a fight. He duly returned on Friday lunchtime in a markedly subdued state and with a large, maggot-infested, wound on his head.

He was immediately admitted for treatment under anaesthetic and, having established that he was not microchipped and no cat matching his description had been reported missing, neutered.

It is common for us to see some nasty cat bite wounds in entire tom cats, but this was certainly one of the worst. Neutering these cats (something we do in conjunction with charities such as Cats Protection) will help prevent them fighting and copulating, and in turn helps prevent the spread of diseases such as feline Aids and leukaemia (blood tests for these viruses in Bob were thankfully negative).

Incidentally, the shearing of sheep around late May and June is mostly done in the interests of preventing fly strike in their warm and damp fleeces. The fleece is a handy by-product, the price of which in most cases barely covers, or is often substantially less than, the cost of shearing.

CHRIS GREEN, DIRECTOR AND

SENIOR VET