The Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton had to work quickly to save puppy’s eye

The morning’s ops list looked straightforward; a handful of dentals and some X-rays for a lame Labrador.

The Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

It was busy enough but I hoped I’d have chance later to sort out some office work – I needed to chase up the delivery of orthopaedic equipment and two new computers needed to be unpacked, plugged in and installed.

Not exactly lifesaving veterinary work, but essential for the smooth running of our new practice in Thirsk. Six months in, we are very busy and finding time to do the routine administrative stuff is not always easy. A window of opportunity – an hour or so – after some routine ops, would need to be snapped up.

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Of course, as usually happens, that window was slammed closed when an emergency call came in. Luckily, our nurse India does not deal in dramas and her consistently calm and collected manner kept our stress levels contained.

“There is a little puppy coming down. Her mum is really worried because her eyeball seems to have popped out,” she explained. The popping out of an eyeball is a proper veterinary crisis and usually sends staff running in all directions. Experience is useful in these cases and we readied ourselves for action.

Sure enough Roonie, a little pug puppy, appeared with her right eye bulging and swollen like something from a horror film. The unfortunate pup had been playing with her brother and fallen down a step. The trauma had forced one of her already bulbous globes from its socket.

Naturally, her devoted owner was devastated, fearing the worst. But we sprang into action.

“I’ll take her straight to theatre,” I blurted, grabbing the pug and whisking her away. It was a matter of great urgency. In critical cases like this, I always feel like I should apologise for not explaining in detail the plan and prognosis. But this could wait until later. My priority was to rescue the bulging and extruded eye.

Roonie was soon asleep, unconscious and therefore out of pain, at least for the time being. Replacing a prolapsed eye can be a bit like pulling on a pair of trousers which are really too tight. The globe quickly becomes swollen and also dried out on the surface, so plenty of lubrication and a procedure called a lateral canthotomy is required. This
is where a small incision is made in the corner of the eye- to make the gap bigger – like moving the button on a pair of tight jeans.

Next, special sutures are placed in each eyelid and a helpful nurse lifts the lids upwards. This allows the vet gently to apply pressure to the eyeball, returning it to its normal position. Because Roonie’s owners had noticed the problem immediately, enabling us to get into action very quickly, the eyeball returned to its normal place relatively easily. Next, the lids needed to be sutured together to make sure the eyeball stayed in place and to protect the surface. It had gone very smoothly and, with plenty of analgesics on board, Roonie recovered in her kennel.

I made the call to her owners to confirm all had gone to plan. In many ways, this is one of the best bits of being a vet.

Of course, the satisfaction of fixing a serious problem is something that is hard to beat, but relating the happy news of a successful surgery to an anxious owner is a highlight of any day. The puppy’s owners were as delighted as I was.

The real icing on the cake would be when they were finally reunited. But that was for later…

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Thank you

James Mitchinson