Parks are normally for walkies, but today one bustling London green has transformed into a veterinary waiting room for pets of all shapes and sizes.
Dogs sit beside cats as they line up with their owners on benches ahead of their appointments at the Blue Cross mobile pet clinic, which is parked up in the borough of Islington, as it is every Thursday.
It’s one of four locations that the service, which has been bringing treatment to pets that need it for more than 10 years, stops off at each week.
From kittens needing their first vaccinations to dogs with allergies, the clinic sees it all on its rounds across the capital, which also takes in Hackney, Walthamstow and Southwark.
Our first patient is 10-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier Lady, who has come along for a check-up following surgery at our Victoria animal hospital three weeks ago.
She has suffered from poorly ears since before owner Jimmy Morrice took her in eight years ago, when Lady was two and no longer wanted by her previous owner, who was going to have her put down. But Jimmy couldn’t let a young and healthy dog go before her time and so he offered her a home where she would always know love.
He said: “She must have had a real bad time before I got her; she was scared of everybody and everything; just a nervous wreck. But because I gave her a decent home and fed her, she knows she’s safe with me.”
Jimmy had wanted a dog for some time, but had been homeless for many years and was just getting back on his feet in temporary accommodation when Lady came along.
“I wasn’t looking for a dog when I took her on, but I saw her and she was going to go to the police station if I didn’t take her, and she’s been with me ever since. I said to her it’s me and her forever, until the day she dies. That’s what I’m worried about,” he said.
Chronic ear problems are often caused after allergies are left untreated, and can be very uncomfortable for a dog. Jimmy has taken Lady to the vet to get help with her ears a number of times, but her problems began when she was a young dog and, at the age of 10, were irreversible.
“She has dirty, gunky, painful ears. Even just brushing past your leg she screams in pain. It was time to get it done,” said Jimmy.Lady had reached the stage where only surgery would help, and had to have her ear canal removed at our Victoria animal hospital. She was able to go home the next day, and Jimmy was given instructions on how to take care of his beloved pet as she recovered from surgery.
For the next three weeks we would need to give Lady a check-up to make sure her wound was healing well. As Victoria is a bit of a way from Islington and Jimmy has mobility issues which require him to use a stick to walk, we scheduled these appointments at our mobile clinic.
Us being able to see Lady closer to her home not only makes check-ups an easier task for owner Jimmy, but is convenient for our patient, who is not as young as she once was.
Once Lady was given the all clear from the vet at our clinic, she was booked in to have the same operation in the other ear. While her hearing will be limited, she won’t be totally deaf, and she knows she will always have Jimmy right by her side to take care of her.
It was a more standard check-up for 12-week-old kitten Ginger Biscuit, who arrived at our clinic with his besotted owner Nicola Henry.
The cute cat needed a vaccination to protect him against several diseases, including the potentially fatal cat flu and feline leukaemia virus, which can also cause severe illness and death.
Chief Vet Mark Bossely explained that preventative treatments like this, as well as offering microchipping, flea mediation, worming and advice on neutering, formed a large proportion of the mobile clinic’s day-to-day work.
“Then we’ve got the sick animals with diarrhoea, coughing, vomiting, sneezing, lameness, and arthritic dogs,” he said. “And sometimes we get emergencies as well, things such as pyometra, which is a serious and potentially fatal infection of the womb, and breathing problems, which need to be seen the same day.”
In emergencies and for surgery, pets will be referred straight to our Victoria animal hospital.
Next up was Lil, a bouncy two-year-old boxer cross American bulldog, whose sore paws are getting her down. When the problem flares, the skin in between her toes goes red raw and it’s causing her lots of discomfort, which is concerning owner Roger Meek.
Sadly, poor Lil didn’t have the best start in life either – her previous owner decided to give her up a few months ago as she said she couldn’t afford to get her treatment for an eye condition.
Lil was then taken in by Roger, who lives alone, and the partnership has transformed both of their lives. Roger now has the company he had craved and Lil the loving home she desperately needed.
For both of them, the Blue Cross Mobile Clinic is a lifeline.
Roger, who is a disabled pensioner, would struggle to access or pay for treatment for Lil if Blue Cross help wasn’t just round the corner from his Islington home.
“I’m not sure what I’d do otherwise, as I’m a pensioner, so I’m very thankful to Blue Cross,” he said.
Our clinic vet suspects the cause of the irritation is an allergy to grass. But she was given medication to treat fox mange to rule that out first, ahead of a follow-up appointment in a few weeks’ time.
To help reassure nervous Lil, her best friend and Blue Cross regular Buster – a nine-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier – tagged along for a general check-up with his owner Lee Whittington.
But when Buster was seen by our vet, he didn’t just need his claws clipping and a new dose of worming tablets, as Lee thought.
After being examined, he had to be booked in for major surgery at our Victoria animal hospital to fix a painful condition which causes his kneecaps to pop out of place. Although concerned about Buster’s operation, it’s ground-breaking and life-changing treatment that would be hard for Lee to find were it not for Blue Cross. “The service is very valuable to us,” he said.
Among our other patients is nine-month-old French bulldog, Boss – it’s itchy skin and sore bumps that are causing him trouble. Owner Stephanie Drane, has brought him to us for the fourth time after various treatments haven’t quite managed to clear up the irritation.
“It’s been like this for about two months, it’s really uncomfortable for him.”
He’s now been put on antibiotics and has been referred to a Blue Cross skin specialist, who will do more tests to establish the route of the problem."
Mark added: “It is great to get the Blue Cross out in to the community like this. We can help so many more people who may struggle to bring their pets down to the hospital.
“It also gets us noticed, so we can improve the welfare of pets by providing basic veterinary care to eligible people who may not have been using our services previously."
Find out more about the mobile pet clinic here