A Christmas to remember at your family vet hospital

It was the Christmas Eve at your family vet hospital. (That’s Fox Valley Animal Hospital in case you were wondering!). Dr Alex and his team of vet nurses were discussing holiday plans and were in a festive mood.

It had been an extremely busy month at your local vet hospital, treating many pets from Normanhurst, Turramurra, Hornsby and Wahroonga.

We had been hit hard the beginning of the month with plenty of tick cases.  Followed by some tricky medical cases that tested the grey matter!

Secretly, many of us were hoping for a less eventful day.  Perhaps a possible early mark to kick start the festive holidays could be arranged?

They say nothing in medicine is a surety. Our hopeful wishes for a couple of nice consults went out the window pretty quickly.

Here’s why more than a mouse was stirring at Fox Valley Animal Hospital this Christmas Eve.


Rabbit dental disease of epic proportions  

Little Maisy the Angora rabbit is beloved to her Normanhurst family. Unfortunately Maisy  also had a serious and possibly life threatening problem that needed immediate attention. Maisy’s incisor teeth had grown to astonishing lengths. The long teeth were causing her a great deal of discomfort. And making it impossible for Maisy to eat properly.

As mentioned in my previous blog on rabbit care, a rabbit’s teeth continuously grow throughout their life. The structure of Maisy’s jaw meant that her teeth didn’t oppose each other. So they weren’t able to grind together and wear down naturally. You can imagine how forever growing teeth would feel after a while!Family vet hospital see's rabbit with overgrown teeth

Maisy was immediately sedated and anaesthised. We were carefully able to reduce the length of her teeth using a dental burr. A dental burr is a metal shank that is used to cut down bone or tooth. It looks sort of like a fancy file or a longer version of a screw.

Using the burr to file down Maisy’s teeth  gave her immediate relief and allowed her to eat. This unfortunately is a temporary solution to a long term problem.

We advised her pet parent to visit Dr David Vella at Northshore Specialists Veterinary Hospital. Our favourite referring rabbit vet due to his extensive knowledge and skills.

Thanks to Vet Alex’s quick thinking and Vet David’s long term solution, we’re happy to report maisy is now pain free.

A family vet hospital  would have never of guessed that one?

Smash had been hospitalised with signs of gastro-intestinalitis. We had been treating him for dehydration, vomiting and diarrhoea with a cocktail of medicines and intravenous fluids. Unfortunately, Smash wasn’t responding in the typical manner so vet Alex decided it was time to take some abdominal x-rays.

The x-ray of Smash’s abdomen showed a foreign object in the small intestines. It was time for us to get ready for surgery.

As a family vet hospital, we see all kinds of crazy things in stomachs and bowels. Pets can eat some funny things. It wouldn’t be uncommon for veterinary staff to take bets on a mystery object that shows up on an x-ray. Over the years, we have removed weird and wonderful things from the intestines of cats and dogs. There’s even a meme about a Labrador eating a bra and the vet nurses sending that to the Napisan challenge!

So we started to put our bets on what it might be. From Christmas decorations to sponges, nothing is sacred when it comes to a curious and mouthy pet!

Dr Alex wanted to proceed with an exploratory laparotomy.  This surgery is very involved and not what we had hoped for on Christmas Eve. But as always, our patients well being is foremost. With vet Alex at the helm, Vet nurse Louise was required to scrub in and assist. Vet nurse Jess monitored and maintained a safe anaesthetic for Smash. And I was left to help the continuous flow of clients wanting to stock up on food before Christmas and make last minute enquiries.smash

You’ll be happy to hear Smash pulled through. And that he had a good shot at winning the Guinness Book of Records for the largest hairball ever recorded. Well, that’s if they took feline entries. It was so big, it caused an obstruction and his owners quite a scare.

And that leads to our next emergency.


Help my cat can’t move….I think she is dying

Life at a family vet hospital is never dull.

Just as Smash was coming round from his general anaesthetic, I took the next emergency. On the end of the phone was an extremely worried pet parent who had just gone under her home to get something when she discovered Millie.

Millie, her 6 year old cat, had been missing a few days. While she searched the streets, her frantic owner had no idea she was under the house. Millie was unable to move and was clinging to what little life she had left.

I told her pet parent to bring her in immediately.

Millie was in bad shape. When Millie arrived at the family vet hospital she was hypothermic, not able to stand and in respiratory distress. Dr Alex was quick thinking and able to see the symptoms for what they were almost immediately.

Dr Alex initiated a tick search with the result being a rather large engorged tick behind Millie’s ear. Tick anti-venom was given along with other medications to reduce the chances of her having an anaphylactic reaction to the antidote.

We monitored her vitals and maintained her oxygen saturation by providing supplemented oxygen using our anaesthetic machine. Millie luckily made it through the tick serum but unfortunately was not stable enough to stay with us. We decided to refer her to SASH, our out of hour’s emergency service.

There she would receive around the clock care until she made a full recovery.

Millie was one very lucky kitty to be found. She was unable to meow as the tick causes paralysis of the larynx. No one would have heard her cries and her condition was close to death. If she hadn’t been found by her owner and their quick response in getting her into us for treatment, Millie’s story may not have ended so well.


The end of a busy day, is it over yet?

From Normanhurst to Wahroonga, from ticks to teeth, we saw it all Christmas Eve.You can never predict what emergency will happen in a busy family vet hospital servicing the Kuring-Gai area.

That next phone call could be an emergency, the next car to pull up outside could be an emergency. Our work is unpredictable, demanding and often challenging.

But at the end of the day (even Christmas Eve), there is always a smile on our vet nurses face and a warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts knowing the priceless gift of being able to help your pet.

We’d never wish any of our wonderful pet loving community to have their own Smash, Millie or Maisy moment. But rest assured if you do, we’ve got your back.


If you ever have an emergency please call your family vet hospital on 02 9489 4805 for advice or bring your pet straight into us for treatment. Some emergencies have a better outcome if prompt treatment is given.






About the Author
My name is Hayley and I'm a senior vet nurse at Fox Valley Animal Hospital. I studied, qualified and started working as a Veterinary nurse in the UK over 15 years ago. I worked in a small but very busy practice about 30 minutes outside London in a place called Gravesend. I decided to travel and left old Blighty for the sunny shores of Australia. I worked for Dr Alex Brittan at Fox Valley Animal Hospital during my stay in Oz. I fell in love with the country, the people and the weather so decided to call Australia home. Since then I have Married, had babies, and own Toby a kelpie cross! and I'm still here. I love my job as a vet nurse. I enjoy the challenge of difficult cases, I love and share in the joy of being able to help peoples pets and the reward is priceless. I wouldn't change my profession for the world.