Behind the Scenes of BBC’s 24/7 Pet Hospital, Filmed in County Durham
A new BBC show is following the work of a close knit pet-hospital team in County Durham
Wear Referrals is a specialist care unit treating animals with complex needs and conditions and at night its A&E unit responds to emergency cases from across the North East. The staff here deal with anything from performing hip replacement surgery on tiny Shih Tzus to treating suspected kidney tumours on labradors and wild owls injured by cars.
One of those staff members is Anna Cronin, a Danish/Irish European specialist in small animal surgery (soft tissue). She’s lived in the UK for eight years (and in the North East for one). ‘When I was three, I wanted to be an opera singer before I realised that wasn’t going to happen because I can’t sing,’ she laughs. ‘That’s when I decided I wanted to be a vet, and it’s rolled on from there. There’s not been a straight line into it. I had some detours but I ended up here in the end which is simply doing what I love to do. I was always taught by my father to do what you love, then it’s no longer work.
‘If we go back and ask four-year-old Anna why I wanted to be a vet, I think it would have been my love for animals. I ended up collecting so many animals that my mother always called it my little zoo at home. When I was seven, I ended up finding a cat that was living under a porch and had a broken toe. My mother’s friend was a vet and I got to go with her and I found it so amazing – the care the vet showed for the cat that I also felt, and that she helped him and he was so much better afterwards. That’s when I knew I wanted to do what she did.’
Just over a year ago, and looking for a change of scenery, Anna visited a friend in the North East and headed for the beach. ‘Up here, you’re so close to nature,’ she says. ‘I sat there with my eyes closed, heard the waves and smelt the sea and that was the deciding factor – I knew I needed to move here.’
Then Anna began working for the pet hospital. Her role at Wear Referrals involves more advanced surgeries. ‘When a pet’s issue is so advanced that it can’t be treated in a general practitioner’s practice (the local vets), they’ll send them here to us,’ she explains. ‘We do anything from cancer surgery to open chest surgery (lungs, liver tumours and foreign bodies in the abdomen, for example).
‘We’re a very young and energetic team. The hospital is state-of-the-art and we’re specialists in almost every aspect so it’s a really great place to work. There’s so much support and if we have a patient that comes in who has multiple needs, we can have a multi-disciplinary approach. I work with a big team of surgeons which means if we have a challenging case that’s posing a lot of questions we can discuss that with our colleagues and we often do that to make sure we provide the best possible care we can for each pet.’
Anna hopes this new series will show how much everybody cares and that it’s a real team effort. ‘It’s not just coming to see the vet; it’s everyone behind the scenes as well,’ she adds. ‘It’s for the owners, and the public, to see what goes on behind those doors. When you come in, all you see is the consult room before your pet is taken for surgery; being able to see what goes on behind closed doors, how advanced it is, and how much like a human hospital it is, that’s what I hope viewers realise. I want them to see what I see. You’ll follow patients from when they go in for consultation, some of their time in the wards, how the nurses take care of them from when they go for an ultrasound or CT scan and come into the surgery with some of us as well. You get to see how everything works from the pets’ point of view, and see how calm and happy they are.’
The best place to walk your dog in the North East.
I haven’t found the best place yet, because there are so many great places! At the moment, I’m loving Roseberry Topping mainly because it’s a challenge for me. Because I have a dog that’s slightly out of shape, he manages to go a quarter of the way then needs a break, then I can pretend that I don’t need one but I have a break as well!
A series you recommend.
That’s difficult! What I watched a lot on Netflix between my studies for my board exams was Schitt’s Creek. The personalities and their development and the storyline is brilliant. I like feel-good stuff like that.
An item you couldn’t live without.
Advice you’d give your younger self.
Do what you need to do, do what you want to do, but don’t do what you have to do necessarily. Do what makes you happy, as long as you don’t hurt anyone along the way.
Top tips for pet owners.
Take your pet to the vets once a year for a general health check. Don’t throw sticks. Give them healthy treats.