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Fur real Animal Emergency vet nurse says there's 'nothing better than helping to save an animal's life'

From a one-eyed seal to a magnet-munching parrot - no two days are ever the same at UCD's Vet Hospital, reveals the star of new show Animal Emergency, which gives a glimpse into life on the fur-ontline

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Clodagh with Odhran, a favourite at the hospital as he was fostered by staff from the DSPCA before being adopted by one team member

Clodagh with Odhran, a favourite at the hospital as he was fostered by staff from the DSPCA before being adopted by one team member

Clodagh with Odhran, a favourite at the hospital as he was fostered by staff from the DSPCA before being adopted by one team member

Big-hearted veterinary nurse Clodagh Fox admits that shedding tears is all part of her work looking after sick or injured animals.

Nothing pleases her more than to see a poorly creature back on its feet after treatment or surgery at the UCD Veterinary Hospital in Dublin.

But she also has to face sights that would test the resolve of the toughest frontline animal worker.

Now the public will be able to see close up the work of the specialist animal centre in a new Virgin Media TV series, Animal Emergency, which began on Sunday night.

The UCD Veterinary Hospital, which looks after 6,000 animal patients a year, offers specialist services that are not easily available to most vets.

A Noah's Ark of animals have passed through its doors - everything from lame horses and sick cows, sheep and goats to injured seals, llamas and exotic birds.

And as Small Animal Medicine Coordinator, Clodagh deals with every type of animal that can fit on a table.

One such creature is Cookie the African grey parrot, who had a lucky escape after swallowing the magnet he had ripped off the leather pouch of his owner's mobile phone.

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Another furry friend is well taken care of

Another furry friend is well taken care of

Another furry friend is well taken care of

"My small animal medicine section would primarily deal with dogs and cats but obviously we do get some unusual species that need our help," says the 37-year-old Dubliner.

"The parrot, for instance, needed an emergency endoscopy and the referring vet didn't have a scope so he sent Cookie to us."

Another animal treated on the show is a seal with an injured eye that required surgery after being found on a beach.

"We deal a lot with Seal Rescue Ireland and it's generally younger seals that get lost during a storm and they get tired swimming and get washed up or they may get banged against rocks," explains Clodagh.

"This one came to UCD for specialist anaesthesia and we had to remove the eye. It was later released and it has now been reported all over Ireland so that's a good thing.

"A one-eyed seal is easy to spot and people are ringing concerned for him. But Seal Rescue say, 'Oh no, that's one of ours.'

"It's great to hear that he's chilling on a beach somewhere now after everything he has been through."

Scribbly Gum the seal may have been one of the lucky ones but sometimes the UCD patients are too ill to survive.

"There are sad times because some of the animals brought to us are very sick and we are the last resort," admits Clodagh.

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Small animal surgeon Ronan Mullen also appears on the TV programme

Small animal surgeon Ronan Mullen also appears on the TV programme

Small animal surgeon Ronan Mullen also appears on the TV programme

"Giving bad news to the owners is never easy and we always hope there is something we can do for them.

"We train long and hard in college and we do get coached on how to help people go through the grieving process when they get bad news and potentially have to say goodbye to their pet.

"I've been brought to tears many a time in this place and in my career in general. It will be 18 years this year - I've been doing it a long time now.

"You do get to know the patient and sometimes the outcome of the diagnosis isn't always what you hoped.

"We are all very invested and sometimes when you can't do anything as a veterinary professional it is very tough."

One relief for Clodagh and her colleagues is that the UCD facility sees very few cases of animal cruelty. Being a referral hospital, most of their patients are very well looked after by their owners, she says.

"They are coming in specifically because the vets have reached the limit of their diagnostic abilities and need to go further.

"So the owners are generally very invested and we wouldn't tend to see cruelty cases that potentially the DSPCA or another charity might see."

One unexpected result of the pandemic is that the hospital is treating a greater number of animals, partly because more people are getting pets to keep them company during lockdowns.

But it is also because owners, stuck at home, have become far quicker at spotting potential problems with little Fido or Whiskers.

"It has definitely changed," Clodagh continues. "We are seeing increased numbers coming into the hospital and sometimes that can be purely due to the pandemic.

"People are around their animals more and are able to spot issues with them while they're at home.

"They are spending their days with their pets and then see these little things that might be wrong which they may not have noticed previously.

"When their lives were busy and they were coming home late from work maybe they didn't see something that had happened during the day while the dog was at home.

"So people are a lot more aware now of what's going on with their animals. There is definitely an increase in the amount of dogs coming in to us.

"This makes it easier for us as well. If an animal needs to be discharged it's so much better now because a majority of the owners are at home with them to do their aftercare, to give them tablets, to check on their bandages.

"We know they are there with them all the time so that has definitely helped us as veterinary professionals."

As lockdown continues, meanwhile Clodagh has this advice for anyone thinking of getting a four-legged friend for the family.

"Do your research," she urges. "Look at the breed and what they were bred to do.

"For instance, if you want a springer spaniel they are a very high-energy breed and do a lot of running. It isn't going to sit on the couch next to you and not expect a big long walk or to chase a ball.

"And with exotic animals research is even more important. Parrots will live for 40, 50, 60 years, maybe more. A plan has to be put in place for somebody to take it should something happen to you.

"Trying to find a home is very difficult so people really need to think hard and long before getting one."

⬤ Animal Emergency starts on Virgin Media One on Sunday night at 8pm

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