Around 6 or so years ago I was lucky enough to spend some time at Vale Wildlife Hospital to get a first-hand practical education when it came to UK Wildlife. This was a great opportunity for me as I have always had a great love for wildlife since a young age, and was fortunate to spend most of my childhood outside.
The care shown for injured wildlife at Vale Wildlife Hospital is of the highest level and I have the greatest respect for everyone there. Vale along with their vet Tim have developed new treatments for hedgehogs and are the UK’s leading hedgehog rescue centre. This in addition to every other species they deal with – when I was there this included foxes, swans, deer, squirrels and loads of other birds.
During my time there I was fortunate enough to spend some time with their vet Tim Partridge and see my first ever surgery which was on a hedgehog that had wounds needing repairing. Today in practice we ended up with a hedgehog in that had been picked up by a member of the public.
Now hedgehogs are pretty cool, and their skin with their spikes is designed like a draw string bag which pulls their body into the bag as a special muscle that goes around the edge closes which pulls the hedgehog into a spikey ball. This is a great defense mechanism, however when it comes to needing to examine them it is impossible as they just tuck themselves up into a ball. The only way to really examine them is to give them a little bit of gas anaesthesia to relax them so that they can be examined.
This hedgehog once anaesthetised was inspected, and whilst we found a crazy amount of ticks and fleas, we found no other wounds or damage. So removing as many ticks as we could, we then gave a spot on to deal with any fleas. Next we gave antibiotics and fluids to help deal with any other problems that were there. Then it was time to wake the hedgehog up, so turning off the gas and keeping the hedgehog only on oxygen until it woke up and could go back into its box. This was then kennelled until the RSPCA could arrive to collect it and take it into their care.
Whilst I was doing the anaesthesia for this hedgehog it took me back to my time at Vale. It’s been over 5 years however I realised how lucky I was to have spent time there to give me the basis of the knowledge that I used today. In under a year I will be graduating as a vet – with a good grounding in UK wildlife which I am very grateful for. However it was the surgery side that popped to the front of my mind, it still amazes me every single time I step up to the operating table and I am able to help an animal.
5 years ago the first time I saw surgery was on a hedgehog that had been injured as a result of humans. Since then I’ve stepped up to a surgery table over 100 times to help an animal needing to be fixed – sometimes because of humans, and sometimes not. Each time I’ve felt the responsibility that my education, skill, knowledge and judgement is going affect that life in either positive or negative ways. However today I realised that I was privileged to have started my education with a hedgehog, British wildlife is precious and something that people often don’t think about when they consider surgery or vets. I think it is a reminder of how different every single patient is.
Vale are a charity and their running costs are over £25,000 each month – there are currently 411 animals in their care and so far in 2016 they have treated 2746 animals. If you can help them either by volunteering or by making a financial donation to their cost please visit their website at: http://www.valewildlife.org.uk/