Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 09:47 UK

A dog's life at animal hospital

BBC Scotland correspondent James Cook reports on a £15m animal hospital, said to be the leading facility of its kind in Europe, which is about to open.

Dylan receiveing treatment
The centre aims to diagnose severe illness in animals like Dylan the Labrador

A heart rate monitor beeps gently as seven-month-old Dylan closes his eyes and drifts off.

Wires are attached to his body and a tube has been fed past his lolling tongue.

He is on the operating table for an endoscopy, which uses a tiny camera to examine the stomach and intestines.

Safer than surgery with a scalpel, it is a common procedure in many NHS hospitals - but this patient is more hound than human.

To be precise, Dylan is a black Labrador cross with a history of stomach pain, weight loss and severe diarrhoea.

Today he is in the hands of Gerard McLauchlan, a vet at the University of Glasgow's new Small Animal Hospital.

Never closes

On a monitor in the corner of the room, Dylan's insides are reproduced in gory reds and whites. Mr McLauchlan can see that something is amiss.

"The intestinal wall looks very inflamed and corrugated which is definitely abnormal," he says.

Suddenly a steely hook darts out and snatches a tiny sample. The biopsy will be sent to the laboratory for testing.

Water therapy in action at animal hospital

It is a technique which can provide an early warning of cancer in dogs and cats. Happily it is more likely that Dylan has a food allergy.

As Dylan recovers in the Intensive Care Unit, where he is checked by a nurse every 15 minutes, we tour the rest of the hospital.

It cost £15m to build and equip. It can treat more than 500 animals every week. And it never closes - operations can be performed at any time of the day or night in several advanced operating theatres.

One of the vets tells me she would not mind going under the knife here herself. Such comments do not seem so strange to Mr McLauchlan.

"I think everything we do in veterinary medicine is guided by what is going on in the human field" he tells me. "And I think it is really important that we continue to work with the human field because certainly there are advances in veterinary medicine that can be adapted to what they do in people and vice versa."

Pet insurance

In the diagnostic suite, those advances are plain to see. It is home to MRI and CT scanners. There is also a radioactive iodine unit for cats and a state-of-the-art pain and rehabilitation centre.

It is here that we find Sula, a two-year-old collie cross who hurt her shoulder chasing a ball over an embankment.

Dog on treadmill
Some of the techniques involve animals walking on a treadmill

To regain her strength, Sula is walking in water. She has been fitted with a lifejacket and is padding along on a treadmill in a hydrotherapy pool, encouraged by the occasional biscuit.

She looks like she is enjoying this underwater stroll under the watchful eye of a German neurosurgeon, Annette Wessmann.

Ms Wessmann is not the only member of staff who brings experience from another country. The accents here are almost as varied as the breeds of cats and dogs being treated.

The University of Glasgow boasts that it has attracted 17 internationally-recognised specialists, holding between them 40 diplomas and higher degrees.

They include the hospital director, Dr Mark Jackson, an American who describes his staff as "a league of nations".

Such renowned expertise does not come cheap. An appointment here could cost thousands of pounds. But that can often be covered by pet insurance and it hasn't stopped people from all over the UK from booking their pets in for treatment.

The reason, reckons Dr Jackson, is simple - people "are very willing to do whatever it takes for their pets."

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