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A day in the life of a South Wales emergency vet at Christmas

Classical Christmas tunes to ease animals’ stress, damning camera evidence of hungry hounds’ festive feasts and reassuring words for pet owners who fear yuletide woes.  

It’s all part of the seasonal life of the emergency vet teams on call to care for poorly pooches, mischievous moggies and more at the Vets Now clinic in Newport this Christmas. 

As the nation pulls crackers and tucks into turkey, some 25 vets, nurses and support staff will regularly be on hand 24/7 to deal with all creature calamities great and small. 

And, with 15 years’ experience, vet Bianca Bassanello knows the festive season is always the busiest time of the year. 

“As an emergency vet you can be sure these shifts are going to be really full-on and the caseload will be really varied,” said Bianca, who has been at the state-of-the-art Newport clinic since it opened nearly four years ago. 

“I was in on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, 7am to 5pm, last year, and you really don’t know what will come through the door next.” 

Newport is one of more than 60 Vets Now hospitals and clinics open to deal with festive emergencies when vet practices across the country shut up shop for Christmas. 

There are now over 20 million pet cats and dogs in the UK and a third of them will experience an emergency this festive season, with Vets Now seeing a 79% rise in cases around Christmas and New Year. 

They include all the “usual” accidents and illnesses, but the frontline vets, nurses and animal care assistants are, as ever, bracing themselves for the festive fallout. 

Last year 958 dogs ate chocolate, lovely to us, poisonous to them, while another 667 scoffed similarly hazardous mince pies, with raisins being toxic to dogs. Then there were the emergency dashes after too-close encounters with tinsel, advent calendars and Christmas puddings. 

“Sometimes the owners come in knowing what their dog has managed to consume,” said Bianca. “We had one last year where the owners had found empty mince pie casings. When they looked back on their home security camera, they found he’d ate the lot as soon as they’d left the house. 

“But others aren’t so sure. One lady brought her Labrador in because he was absolutely manic, and she said she had no idea if he’d had anything to eat as they were always careful. 

“At that very moment he was sick in the reception and there was the evidence, loads of chocolate and wrappers.” 

The team are on hand to deal with all the medical emergencies, but sometimes a little TLC and reassurance is all that’s needed. 

“No one wants to be at a vets’ at Christmas, so people may have Googled and think the worst before they come,” said Bianca. “Often it’s the fear of what could happen, so we’re always aware of being able to calm and reassure them if we can.”  

As well as those animals able to leave promptly, the clinic always has a busy ward of in-patients, all looked after by a dedicated team – with a festive touch where possible. 

“We had one dog which had to be kept in isolation because of an infectious disease,” said Bianca. “Classical music has been shown to be good for relieving stress, so we had some classical Christmassy tunes playing for him. 

“We have vets and nurses here at all times of the day and night. If my cat was here, just knowing I could call someone at 3am would be a real comfort.” 

While the team look after one another and always manage a bit of festive fare, having a little more time off this year will make things a bit more traditional for Bianca. 

“I was so busy I just had time for some of my mum’s homemade lasagne from the freezer when I got home on Christmas Day night!” 

For more information, visit Vets Now’s Christmas hub: https://www.vets-now.com/christmas/ 

Vets Now Newport, open 24/7, is located at Vets Now Newport, Langstone Business Village, Langstone, Newport, NP18 2LH, Newport. For more information about the Vets Now clinic in Newport visit https://www.vets-now.com/find-an-emergency-vet/newport/.

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