Here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we pride ourselves on the wide ranging skill set that our fantastic team has. We have great receptionists that deal with a whole spectrum of enquiries; from routine everyday ones to emergency situations, they deal with them all.
Our lovely Veterinary Nurses organise and run several well-being sessions such as healthy diet (I call it the ‘Trim Tums and Tails’) club. They also keep a keen eye on our patients pre- and post-op, doing everything from clipping fur to monitoring blood pressure and pain levels.
Lastly are myself and my Veterinary Surgeon colleagues, who between us all try to keep your furry family members in tip-top condition. Much of our time is occupied with routine vaccinations and health checks, with scheduled surgery such as neutering and dental care also making up our days.
As we know, life doesn’t run smoothly all the time. Sometimes accidents happen, and serious ones lead to scenarios where emergency surgery is needed. Unfortunately Louise, or rather her rabbit, Beatrice, found themselves in just such a predicament and needed the expertise of the SLVC team.
Beatrice is a 1.5kg, female Mini Lop rabbit and was only 12 weeks old when Louise brought her in to the practice, clearly in pain and with an obvious injury to her left hind leg. An X-Ray revealed that Beatrice had a fracture – a clean break of her Tibia was unmistakeable to see. The cause of the injury? A bit of a session of too rough, rough-and-tumble with other furry members of the household!
Surgery was needed immediately, and the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team sprang into action like the well-oiled machine we are! One of the most challenging parts of the procedure, believe it or not, was clipping Beatrice’s beautiful fur away. This gorgeous girl has the most wondrous, velvety fur you can imagine; it is softer-than-soft, but deceptively dense. Our vet nurse certainly had her patience and stamina put to the test as she worked her way through 4 (yes, 4!) sets of clippers in order to de-fuzz Beatrice.
I gathered the team around me and told them that we were (well, I was!) going to place a pin down the middle of the two parts of the broken Tibia, then bend the pin round and tie it to an external scaffold known as an External Fixator.
Rabbits pose a greater risk under anaesthetic than cats and dogs, so combined with the intricate surgery that was necessary, this was going to be challenging to say the least.
Beatrice was pre-oxygenated so that all of her bodies’ cells had as much fresh Oxygen in them as possible, and a specialised Endo-Tracheal tube (the one that goes down their throats) delivered closely monitored amounts of anaesthetic gas into her lungs.
We also have a specialised patient warming system as part of our equipment in the operating suite at SLVC, and with this bunny only weighing 1.5kg she had a very large surface area to volume ratio, which made her extremely prone to heat loss. No way was Beatrice getting cold on our watch; nope, not happening. Mosty toasty is the Modus Operandi here! Our lovely vet nurse laid Beatrice on a
thick blanket that covered the heat pad, taking care to elevate her chest, and thereby preventing bunny’s heavy abdominal organs from restricting her breathing.
Extra drugs are also used to prevent gut stasis during surgery in rabbits; the idea is to minimise disturbance of the body’s functions as much as possible. Specialist patient monitoring systems are also used by the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team when we carry surgery out. Beatrice’s blood pressure, ECG (heart rhythm), and end Tidal Carbon Dioxide levels were constantly under scrutiny, and a pulse oximeter measured her Oxygen levels whilst she was under anaesthetic.
During surgery, one of the things we routinely do is administer fluids and drugs via intravenous lines, as happens in human surgery. Rabbit veins are a little trickier to find and maintain, and we find that the veins in a bunny’s ears are easy to use for this purpose. Given the astounding beauty that Beatrice has, we decided to pay homage to it by popping matchy-matchy bandages on her ear and the mended leg. Not wanting to let the non-furry team down, I donned a rather natty cow print surgical hat for the procedure!
The operation went smoothly I’m pleased to say; the whole SLVC team were phenomenal, it has to be said. After surgery Beatrice was recovered in an Oxygen tent to support her breathing, and we continued to administer fluids into the vein in her ear to keep her circulating blood volume and blood pressure at good levels.
Our post-surgery environment is kept calm and quiet to keep stress levels as low as possible for our furry patients. A phone call was made to Louise to say that the operation had gone as planned – we know how worrying it is when your fur-baby is poorly. Later in the evening, Beatrice was taken home to recuperate, and Louise was given a detailed list of instructions and some painkilling medication.
I saw Beatrice for her first post-surgery check-up recently and am pleased to report that all is well so far; the surgical wound is healing well and there are no signs of infection. Louise has been very strict on restricting Beatrice’s exercise, keeping her in a small cage in the house where she can keep a keen eye on her fur-baby! Beatrice is literally a snuggle-bunny though, so when Louise has been giving her the medication (which takes a bit of time to be absorbed properly!) they have been enjoying some quality cuddles :-). Beatrice has been through such a lot, but Louise has only had a couple of little nips when things have got a bit too over-whelming for her. What a star patient!
The Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre philosophy is very much that “prevention is better than cure”, but sometimes circumstances need a surgical or medical solution. As well as the fracture fixation that Beatrice needed, we also do Cruciate Repairs and Patella luxation; in fact our facilities and the wealth of experience in the team mean that we’re well placed to do all kinds of small animal surgery.
As always, our team is only a phone call away, so if you have any concerns at all regarding your beloved pet, please don’t hesitate to call.
Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂