The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton needs a little help from neighbouring vets to deal with a deerhound's broken jaw

What should have been lunchtime turned into emergency surgery, following a phone call from the owners of a deerhound, who had been enjoying a snowy walk in the winter wonderland that was North Yorkshire.

Julian, pictured with his jack russell, Emmy was dealing with emergency surgery

Willow had been running around, goodness knows exactly where or doing exactly what, but it must have been either at high speed or very close to the hind hooves of a bad-tempered horse, because she’d returned bedraggled with a painful and bloodied face. Maybe she’d slipped on the ice.

“I think she’s broken her jaw,” was the measured assessment from a calmer-than-expected owner. It turned out to be an accurate assessment, too.

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The crepitus was evident as I examined the injured hound and I explained that I would need to give her a general anaesthetic to allow a more detailed assessment and to take some X-rays.

Sandbeck had a little help treating Willow from a neighbouring vets.

Once under GA, the fracture was clear. The radiographs showed that it ran obliquely through the horizontal part of the right jaw. It was a nasty fracture but eminently fixable. However, to do so I needed some specialist equipment.

Luckily, our friends and neighbours at Swift Referrals were more than happy to lend me the required kit. This new and dynamic referral practice opened at almost exactly the same time as we did at Sandbeck and we are both new kids on the block, so to speak; the next generation of independent practices.

They are just around the corner at Thorp Arch and their fantastic staff are always happy to help. We have a great relationship – the sort that was commonplace among veterinary practices several decades ago, when all surgeries in an area helped each other out without a thought.

I remember, many years ago, covering a Saturday night for a single-handed practice in the neighbouring town. The practice owner had a family wedding to attend. I was on duty anyway and offered to cover any calls that might present themselves. “Oh, don’t worry,” reassured the vet as she packed her bags for a long overdue weekend away. “The practice is always quiet on a Saturday night.”

Even in the early days of my veterinary career I had enough experience to know that I should never believe that! I readied myself for a rammed weekend. And that was exactly what happened. First, a foaling – probably the most urgent and stress-inducing call on a vet’s emergency list – at a distant stud, followed by a calf with a broken leg, shortly after midnight.

But this didn’t matter, because helping an injured animal was what it was all about and if we could help a neighbour too, then so much the better. In recent years, the dramatic changes in the profession – in part a result of the rash of corporate takeovers – have meant that the historic warm, friendly and symbiotic relationship that was once taken for granted has changed to protectionism over long-established clients.

Thankfully, within the veterinary world, things seem gradually to be moving back towards a more co-operative way of working. Thanks to our new and special relationship with our neighbour, I was quickly on the case, repairing Willow’s broken jaw.

The jagged edges met perfectly and soon normal stability was restored. Plenty of painkillers and a numbing nerve block later, Willow was groggy but awake, wondering what had just happened. I called her owners, who had been on tenterhooks, with the good news.