As a companion animal practice, we see a wide range of pet animals requiring veterinary care and advice.
The vast majority of the patients we see are cats and dogs, but we can also see numerous rabbits, ferrets, Guinea pigs, hamsters, Chinchillas, rats, birds and even reptiles.
I have noticed a trend over recent years for companion animal practices like my own to focus more on dogs and cats and increasingly they defer treating the less common species.
I feel that this is a real shame, as most of us entered the profession with a degree of inspiration by the James Herriott approach to all creatures great and small, and this does leave owners with few options to seek first opinion veterinary care.
When I first moved to Wokingham from South Africa at the end of 1999, I was determined to succeed in my new venture in the UK. Meeting the challenges of unfamiliar species of pets was very much part and parcel of the job, and I embraced the steep learning curve with enthusiasm.
I had never encountered ferrets or chinchillas in South Africa, and rats were pretty uncommon as pets too.
One of the first nurses I worked with in the UK had pet ferrets – an animal I was completely unfamiliar with. Through working with her ferrets and garnering knowledge from her and her peers’ experiences I rapidly became known as one of the few vets who would treat ferrets in the area.
To this day people still travel from as far away as Guildford for me to look at their ferrets. I would simply not be in this position if I hadn’t been prepared to learn something new all those years ago.
The health of our pets is linked to ‘husbandry’, providing a safe and enriched environment with suitable diet, housing, exercise and lighting and ventilation. In my experience, most owners who have sought out one of these less common species pets will have a reasonable degree of knowledge of husbandry including current thoughts on health care and potential diseases.
More often than not I work with the owner to come up with a treatment plan, and in some cases, this may include using one of the specialist referral centres available to us.
Currently, we are dealing with a case of dental disease in a rabbit.
Rabbits teeth grow continuously and are worn down during the chewing of the food including grass and hay. Choice of appropriate diets can affect the occurrence of dental disease.
In these challenging cases we often see spurs of the tooth causing ulcerations on the tongue or cheeks, and the pain can cause the rabbit to stop eating with potentially disastrous results.
In severe cases we can see root abscesses and even infection of the bone around the tooth roots – usually diagnosed on x-rays. A combination of trimming and filing the affected teeth under sedation and appropriate pain relief and antibiotics are indicated to try and get the patient back up and eating. Nursing care and owner’s commitment are vital to a positive outcome.
All these years later I continue to see all species of pets in our practice and actively encourage my younger vets to do so to. We are able to use our training and experience to evaluate the case and determine if treatment and care falls within our capabilities or requires a referral.
This gives us an ongoing wide and varied caseload, and allows us to support our equally diverse population of owners.
Michael Morrow owns and runs St Vincents Veterinary Surgery, an independent family-owned practice providing personal care for pets in and around Wokingham since 2005. Well-known for his love of animals and interacting with clients, Michael has been looking after pets in Wokingham for over 20 years. Should you have any concerns about your pet please call the practice on 0118 979 3200 or visit www.stvincentsvets.co.uk to find out more about the practice.