A rare patient for our small animal emergency vets

Our team at Vets Now Kirkaldy is used to dealing with pet emergencies.

But they recently welcomed a different kind of patient into the clinic — an injured seal pup that had been beached for several days.

A concerned member of the public called the British Diver’s Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) who contacted our clinic to ask if they could care for it overnight.

Our team, together with BDMLR volunteers and a local wildlife vet, made sure that the seal was cared for and ready to be transferred to a wildlife rescue centre the next day.

What to do if you spot a seal on the beach

Keep your distance

Always keep your distance. Never approach a seal or let dogs or children near it.
Seals are wild animals and they can bite.

Does it need help?

It’s normal for seals to spend some time out of the water.
Does it appear to be unwell, have signs of injury or has been on the beach for a long time?

Call RSPCA, SSPCA or BDMLR

If the seal needs help, call:
BDMLR rescue hotline – 01825 765546
RSPCA (in England and Wales) – 0300 1234 999
SSPCA (in Scotland) – 03000 999 999

Two hours after the call, a BDMLR volunteer turned up with the seal in a special crate and our team was on hand to transfer him into the clinic.

Veterinary surgeon Elise Bardsley-Anderson and veterinary nurse Rachel Bentall were on duty when the call came in. Elise explained: “The seal was bright and feisty when he arrived.

“It wasn’t obvious what was wrong with him at first so we made sure he was comfortable in his crate before assessing him.

“When we did assess him with minimal handling we found he was in a stable condition.”

The team let the pup rest in his crate overnight and kept the rescue volunteers updated on his progress.

The next morning, the team needed to get a more thorough look and required the assistance of the BDMLR once again.

A seal pup in a crate being treated at Vets Now Kirkaldy
Volunteers from the British Diver’s Marine Life Rescue brought the seal pup to Vets Now Kirkaldy to be cared for overnight ©Vets Now

“We needed to assess him prior to transport so two amazing local volunteers came at 8 am to help us handle and treat the pup,” Elise explained.

“They helped to rehydrate him by stomach tubing some fluids and we were able to assess him. Our vet nurse Rachel was the first to volunteer to handle him

“We found that one of his flippers was quite swollen in comparison to the other and we needed to do an x-ray before he could be taken to a wildlife centre.

“He was kind enough to hold still for his x-ray and we sent the image to another volunteer wildlife vet who advised that he may have a bone infection.

“He would need several weeks of antibiotics and pain relief while in a rescue centre.”

After he had been assessed, he was ready to be transferred. A local volunteer, who is a human physio and volunteers in her spare time, drove the pup over 80 miles to Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre.

The seal pups x-ray for Vets Now article on seal pup rescue
The seal pup let the team do an x-ray ©Vets Now

Seal pups beach for many reasons throughout the winter. Malnutrition, internal parasites, fight wounds and other injuries can result in them needing to beach to try to heal. Other times, young seals are just waiting for their mothers to return from fishing and need a safe place to stay.

You should never approach a seal on the beach. If you think a seal has been on the beach for too long, call the RSPCA (in England and Wales), Scottish SPCA (in Scotland) or the British Divers Marine Life Rescue for further instructions.

The case highlights the amazing effort that wildlife rescue groups go to and the great things that can happen when different teams pull together.

Elise said “We don’t have much experience with wildlife in small animal practice as we see them so intermittently.

“But when we needed a hand and wanted to learn more about seal handling and treatment several volunteers were available to help.

“I was really moved by the large network of people across the country that are involved in marine wildlife rescue and their willingness to come and help at the drop of a hat.”

A seal put at Vets Now Kirkaldy
The pup was transferred to a rescue centre ©Vets Now

All of Vets Now’s premises always have a vet and vet nurse on site.

We also offer an online video consultation service to make professional veterinary advice more easily available. Elise is one of the vets you can speak to.

While the service is not suitable for life-threatening emergencies, our experienced vets are available to discuss any worries or concerns pet owners might have.

If your pet needs an in-person follow-up appointment at any vet practice, we will refund the online consultation fee, so you never pay twice.