Animal Hospital

Reporter: Monika Kos

When a loved one's taken to hospital we want them to receive the very best of care. A skilled medical team using state of the art technology you'd expect to see in a major hospital, but this is not a mainstream medical centre and these are not typical patients.

This is Murdoch University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital where staff are trained to expect the unexpected, but they can still be caught off guard.

Being stuck under a sedated patient weighing a whopping 650 kilograms is one of the many unique challenges faced by veterinary staff.

CEO Phil Payne says the hospital treats around 25 thousand patients a year from Stallions to Siamese.

Some of its biggest patients come from all over the state. The Hospital's Equine Centre renown for its specialist surgical team and purpose built facility.

This is surgery on a grand scale with no time to spare.

Horses are at special risk. Their heavy muscle mass could crush vital organs and airways. Surgeons work fast, using similar equipment found in human hospitals. CT machines are essential in vet hospitals, too.

Nola Lester is a vet who's trained in diagnostic imaging. The CT scan ensures the patient gets the treatment it needs, costing around $500.

"The principal difference is if a human goes to hospital they generally get the treatment they require, but with animals there's no Medicare obviously, so quite often the treatment is dependent on the owners' ability to pay".

How much are people prepared to spend on their pets? "Quite often as much as it takes to get a full recovery. There was a gentleman who accidentally ran over his dog up at Cervantes and he chartered a private plane to fly his dog here to get treated. He made a full recovery and he's been back to see us on a couple of occasions and I think he's forgiven his owner" says Phil.

This elaborate bit of jewellery belongs to Winston, a much loved Shitzu.

Winston's on the mend thanks to Dr Mark Glyde and a surprising application of modern technology.

"What we need to do is essentially cut the bone and straighten it. The great thing about using these ring fixators is we can progressively correct it".

And you got a bit of help doing this didn't you? "We had some fantastic help through Princess Margaret Hospital".

That's right. Princess Margaret Hospital. W.A's foremost hospital for children, helping animals.

Scientist Mark Walters is from Princess Margaret's Cranio Maxillofacial Unit where they usually correct deformed bones in children.

"From the CT data, we've been able to render a volume of the actual dog bone, so we can see the deformity there and then in consultation with the surgeon we can put the distraction frame or the bangles that will go around and place them accurately and precisely for the surgery".

"We hope to be able to continue these types of collaborations because it develops the expertise within this state. We have an open field to be able to develop new ideas and new solutions to difficult problems".

Dogs often eat stuff they're not supposed to and when they do, they can end up here, the Murdoch Pet Emergency Centre.

Dr Katrin Swindells is one of veterinarians in charge of the Centre covering the after hours care for half of Perth's pets.

Just like human ER's, new patients are first seen by triage staff, who assess the urgency of treatment.

In many ways vets are like human doctors; scientists using the very latest medical technology because pets are important members of the family, deserving the best.

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