VET’S DIARY: Not so simples when meerkats are involved

ON many occasions I have mentioned in this diary the varied nature of the work that we do, not to mention the wide variety of patients that we take care of, writes Dominic Plumley.

Last week saw another species added to the list.

Actually, tt’s not strictly true to say that this little fellow was a new addition as we have been responsible for his care for a little while, but this was the first time that something had been dramatically wrong.

So what was this unusual patient? It was none other than Alexander, one of Whitehouse Farm Centre’s cheeky meerkats. Poor Alexander was having a bad day.

I’m not sure if he had forgotten to send a Valentine’s Day card to his girlfriend, but she has been a little frosty with him in the last few weeks and this boiled over into a little bit of a tiff.

The result of the fall-out was that poor Alexander managed to get himself bitten on his foot.

In most circumstances this would have been fairly innocuous but unfortunately the tooth had ruptured his digital artery, the vessel that supplies blood to his toes.

In spite of his ‘lady troubles’, Alexander is a very friendly chap and amenable to being handled.

Heather, his keeper, tried all of the appropriate first aid treatments, applying pressure to the area, but none of her efforts could successfully stem the haemorrhage. Every time she thought that the bleeding had stopped Alexander would hop about excitedly and it would start again.

A quick phone call and Heather and Alexander were on their way down to our Morpeth surgery.

The wound, to look at, was nothing more than a little puncture but the angry swelling and blood everywhere was clearly an indication that more damage had been done internally.

As friendly as Alexander is, he wasn’t happy for me to have a poke and so a whiff of anaesthetic gas soon had him dreaming of happier times.

General anaesthetics tend to reduce the sleeping patient’s blood pressure and no sooner had the little meerkat started snoring than the bleeding stopped.

Simples!, we thought (you knew it was coming in here somewhere).

I thoroughly flushed the wound and applied a little skin glue for good measure. With the bleeding evidently stopped, we turned off the gas and waited for Alexander to wake up.

Unfortunately, as he did so, his blood pressure elevated and the haemorrhage started again. Not so simples, eh!

A little more anaesthetic gas and Alexander was back in the land of nod. This time I opened up the puncture wound surgically in search of the bleeding vessel, which incidentally had once again stopped leaking.

A ligature around the artery would hopefully prevent further problems though we couldn’t be sure until the little fellow was awake again.

I then placed a couple of sutures in the skin to close up my handy work. These stitches used a special material that will dissolve over the next few weeks so that we won’t need to bother Alexander again to take them out.

As he was recovering from his anaesthetic, we placed a light dressing on the offending limb to stop him from having a nibble at his stitches.

In no time at all, he was awake. Though thankfully the bleeding had stopped, he was obviously a little groggy as he was keen to bury himself in Heather’s jumper.

An hour or two later he was eating and drinking and a week or so down the line his recovery has continued without concern.