Pound Paws Profile Story – Dr Michelle Sutherland

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Pound Paws Profile Story – Dr Michelle Sutherland – Hospital Director and Senior Veterinarian Sylvania Veterinary Hospital

We spoke with Dr Michelle Sutherland ahead of Gymea Hotel Dog Day!

Pound Paws Profile Story – Dr Michelle Sutherland – Hospital Director and Senior Veterinarian Sylvania Veterinary Hospital

Website: https://www.sylvaniavet.com.au/

1) Can you share with us the moment you decided you wanted to be a vet?

There probably wasn’t one moment. It was a childhood filled with happy and sometimes sad memories of our four legged family members. When I was young we always had animals around us. My mum was a huge animal lover. We had dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, fish and a bird. I remember regular visits to the vet throughout my childhood and always felt like it would be the best job in the world. To be able to go to work and look after and save sick and injured animals or care for cute puppies and kittens.

When I was around 10 years old we had a puppy “Holly”(because she was born near Christmas) that contracted parvovirus at 8 weeks of age and I remember taking her into the vets but unfortunately she didn’t make it. This had a profound impact on me and I remember feeling like even though she hadn’t made it the vet had done everything to try and save her and I wanted to be that person.

We also had a labrador cross, Sasha, who was hit by a car on the princes highway fracturing his spine in multiple places. He was given a very guarded prognosis to ever walk again and euthanasia was considered but my mum being the amazing woman she is, cared for him day and night. She had his bed made up in our lounge room and towel walked him out to the toilet for months. He eventually walked and even ran again! It was one of those life changing moments. He was my best friend and the one who was always there for the whole family. If you were having a bad day you would cuddle Sasha and feel better. He had one of those big wagging happy labrador tails that just makes you smile.

2) What makes Sylvania Vet so different to other vet clinics?

I’ve been part of the Sylvania Veterinary Hospital team since 2007 when we were only 4 full time vets. George James the previous owner of the hospital was the owner at that time. I have been with the hospital through it’s growth, our amazing accreditation with the Australian Veterinary Small Animal Association to be given our hospital of excellence classification. I am so proud of the work our team achieves on a daily basis.

We see everything – all sorts of animals from dogs and cats to birds and turtles. We are open 365 days a year and for the longest hours of any clinic in the Shire – Monday to Friday 7am – 11pm, Saturday and Sunday 7am – 8pm and all Public Holidays 7am – 5pm. We have vets that have done significant year long continuing education courses in so many different fields – dermatology, internal medicine, surgery, ultrasonography, radiography, emergency medicine, ophthalmology, feline medicine and avian health to name a few. We do complicated orthopaedic surgeries. We have a state of the art digital xray machine and human hospital standard ultrasound machine. We have a specialist surgeon that comes in when required for nearly any possible surgery including full hip replacements. We have a coin operated dog wash on our premises that clients can use 24 hours a day. We have a boarding cattery and lots of off street parking!

But most of all what makes Sylvania Veterinary Hospital special is our amazing team of vets and vet nurses that love animals and people. Our team truly comes to work every day hoping to make their patients day better in some way whether that is for our patient to be well again, cared for after a big surgery or to provide whatever support and ease the pain when a family has to say goodbye to a loved one.

3) Do you own any pets yourself?

Do I own any pets?!! I can’t remember a time without a pet. At the moment our four-legged furry family members consist of four rescue animals.

MOLLY who is a pure-bred cream kelpie who fractured her leg when she was 10 weeks old and came into Sylvania and was going to put to sleep because she could never be a working dog. Her mum was an Australian champion. I remember heading out to her hospital cage to give her a cuddle after I heard the decision being considered and her little leg flopping around but her still trying to climb onto my lap for cuddles. I took her home instead even though we already had two dogs at the time and she is a much loved family pet 10 years later. She sleeps snuggled into my daughter every night. You can see a life size picture of Molly on Cronulla beach when you visit our hospital on the front door.

RORY who is a 5 year old golden retriever cross kelpie. He’s from Homeless Hounds in Melbourne. He is the most loyal and snuggly dog out there. His mother was a street dog who was rescued by a foster carer when she was walking down the street with 6 puppies in tow. He is affectionately called “Mud Face” by our family. We nearly lost him 3 years ago when he was only 2 years old to a horrible condition known as Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia where an animal’s immune system starts to attack its own red blood cells. He required two blood transfusions(one donated from his sister Molly!) and many months of medications but he has now happily made a full recovery.

BAILEY is our “Street Cat”. We adopted him from the Sutherland Shire Animal Shelter around the same time as Molly. He was around 800g and fit into my hand. He had been found in a drain by a good samaritan in the Sutherland Shire and we were lucky enough to have him join our family. He loves everyone. The minute a visitor comes into the house he is on them and snuggling into their faces looking for cuddles.

TOTSIE – Last but not least is our newest addition Totoro or Totsie for short – our second feline family member. Totsie and her sister were brought into Sylvania Veterinary Hospital at around 4 weeks of age by a lady that backed onto the National Park and found them in her backyard – she was a bundle of white fur with bright blue eyes. We took them in to find them homes through our hospital planning on giving them some much needed TLC. They were so scared and both hissing constantly. I carried Totsie around the hospital for a day and then on the Friday said to our team “I’ll just take her home for the weekend so she can socialise with the kids”. She has never left our home since and now sleeps on the pillow draped over my son or daughter’s head every night.

4) Can you share with us a story about one of your on-going pet customers? You must get a lot of cute pets coming in!

We get so many gorgeous animals coming through our door every day. With 8 vets and being such a busy hospital as you can imagine the cuteness never stops! But the one patient story I have to share is about Dolly – she is truly one in a million. This gorgeous girl has been through so much but still wags her tail every times she see us and gives us kisses. She is the definition of a survivor.

Dolly is a huge 3 and ½ kg! But don’t let her small size fool you – she is one tough cookie. She has survived against all odds – three times! Dolly first came to our hospital in December 2007 and I speyed her in 2008 when she was a young pup. She came in for a routine dental in October 2012 and we picked up that she was a diabetic on a pre-anaesthetic blood screen. Dolly has been an insulin dependent diabetic since this time with her dedicated mum and dad giving twice daily injections for 6 years!.

She has been admitted to hospital twice in a life threatening diabetic ketoacidotic state which is when ketones which are a type of acid build up in the blood stream and damage internal organs indiscrimatorily. She pulled through both times.

However, in August this year Dolly’s diabetes reeked havoc within her body and she was extremely unwell with septicaemia and multiple abscesses in her spine, liver, lungs and bones. She was in intensive care for 3 weeks with us a further two weeks in hospital. Several times during this period we nearly had to say goodbye to her but true to personality and her determined will to live she pulled through and is now home playing with her toys and hanging with Benson her brother who has no idea how close he came to losing her.

This tiny little girl has battled against horrible odds many times but just loves life too much! She now thinks the hospital is her second home and likes to keep me company in the office or join into our staff meetings rather than rest in a hospital cage.

Through all the poking and prodding and catheters and xrays and ultrasounds she never got upset with us and she still wags her tail to see us. This gorgeous girl has a very special place in the hearts of the SVH team.

5) We are delighted to have you as a judge for Best Howl’O-Ween Dog Costume this Sunday, any tips for the entrants?

Make it scary!!!

6) Any advice to individuals who are interested in becoming a vet?

I think being a vet is about the best job you could ever have but you need to love animals AND people. Sometimes we spend as much time with the human families as with our furry and feathered patients.

We get to do so many amazing things and save lives and at the same time cuddle cute and cuddly puppies and kittens. But it is a physically and emotionally demanding job. We deal with the whole spectrum of emotions on a day to day basis from the elation of a family whose pet we have saved to the tragedy of a family having lost an elderly pet that may have been with them most of their life. You need to be prepared for this when you enter the veterinary profession. Learning how to heal and save a pets life is not enough and the human emotion can sometimes take its toll.

Volunteer at as many veterinary hospitals as you can. Be around animals. Volunteer at the Sutherland Shire Animal shelter and the RSPCA and if you love being around animals and people then go for it! It is an amazingly, challenging, rewarding and interesting career. I have met as many human families that are in my heart as patients I have looked after.

We take year 10 high school students for work experience so come and spend time in our hospital and find out what life as a vet is really like.

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