We’re delighted for Chris Shales, our renowned clinical director, who has taken on a key European role alongside his work here at Willows.  

Chris has been named as the new Chair of the Small Animal Scientific Committee for the European College of Veterinary Surgeons (ECVS).

It’s an important position within the ECVS, which is responsible for setting the training requirements and administering the examination of veterinarians working to become recognised specialists in the field of veterinary surgery.

Chris, a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and a European Specialist in Small Animal Surgery (ECVS), will also be taking overall responsibility for both the soft tissue and orthopaedic sub-committees.

He said: “I am delighted to have been asked to take on this important role within the ECVS.

“It is one of the largest colleges within the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation (EBVS), which is the umbrella organisation for veterinary specialties within Europe.

“I have served on the scientific committee since 2019 and during that time shared the responsibility of designing and delivering the programme for the annual July meeting which draws speakers and delegates from all over the world, making great friends in the process.”

Chris was appointed clinical director here at Willows in January, having previously been head of our soft tissue surgery service.

The Cambridge University graduate is a highly respected figure in the veterinary world and has a keen interest in helping develop the vets of the future.

He was previously director of our surgical residency training programme, has had numerous research papers published and addressed both national and international conferences.

Chris has also worked with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and the Association of Veterinary Soft Tissue Surgeons (AVSTS).

Outside of work, he is a keen rugby fan, cook, mountain biker, amateur landscape gardener and loves walking the hills with his family, labrador Hattie and friends.


An experienced vet nurse is carrying on her remarkable career progression here at Willows after being appointed to a unique radiology role.

Long-serving registered veterinary nurse (RVN) Aimee Carrier has been appointed to the newly-created role of radiology team leader, heading a dedicated group of registered veterinary nurses within our diagnostic imaging service.

Aimee said working within Willows multidisciplinary hospital had given her so many opportunities to advance her knowledge and experience since joining the renowned centre almost 10 years ago, and she now wants other nurses to blossom in a similar manner.

She said: “I began my career at Willows by rotating through all of our services before moving into the lead nurse position within radiology, I then progressed to multidisciplinary team leader and have now taken up a new role as radiology team leader. 

“It has allowed me to obtain a plethora of important and crucial skills across all disciplines with an understanding and appreciation for each services individual needs. 

“Now, in this team leader position, my main responsibilities include overseeing the day-to-day efficiency of the radiology service and ensuring all patients receive the highest level of care throughout their visit.

“I’ll be providing the head of clinical services with up-to-date efficiency strategies, case load numbers and highlighting where improvements could be made.

“I also need to ensure sufficient out-of-hours cross sectional image acquisition in support of our radiologists.”

Having benefited from a clear career pathway here at Willows, Aimee is particularly keen to use her advancement to help her fellow nurses to progress their own careers.

As we enter Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month (VNAM), which this year embraces the theme of ‘empowerment’, Aimee added that her newly-created position was a great illustration of how our hospital embodies and supports empowerment within veterinary nursing.

She said: “I am passionate about teaching and developing our nurses’ skills matrix to showcase how dynamic our team is here at Willows.

“My role, alongside our radiology team is a prime example of the opportunities available at Willows for RVNs to expand their skill sets and the develop the scope of their careers.

“It allows nurses to be fundamental in the acquisition of imaging and running the hybrid imaging list independently.

“This is vitally important as we will be depending more and more on remote reporting in the future.

“That’s why an important part of this new role will be focusing on the acquisition and teaching of accurate, well positioned, diagnostic images using varying modalities including cross-sectional CT and MRI scans.

“It’s also a key task for me to support and lead the radiology team, including performing regular performance development reviews and creating clear career pathways for new members of the service.”


A much-loved kitten who effectively died for 26 minutes following a heart attack is on the road to recovery thanks to the multidisciplinary team here at Willows.

Eleven-month-old Bella was rushed to us with suspected lily toxicity. Lilies are extremely poisonous to cats, including the water they sit in, with lily toxicity causing acute kidney injury.

In Bella’s case, while hospitalised, she suffered a cardiac arrest (heart attack) which required almost 30 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

She was effectively dead for all of that time and has since had to learn to walk and eat again. The severity of the medical emergency had a profound impact on Bella’s health.

Not only did she experience seizures due to the prolonged CPR but the incident also resulted in blindness. However, her owner has praised the skills of our clinicians who saved Bella and gave her a second chance at life.

The beloved kitten’s plight started after coming into contact with lilies following the funeral of a close family member of one of her owners.

At first, it was thought she might have escaped the worst but she subsequently suffered a heart attack.

Dee Flora, Bella’s owner who lives in Solihull, said: “We were absolutely mortified. We had just lost a parent and weren’t prepared to lose Bella, too. We were determined to try our best to get her better and home.

“She has beaten all the odds that were against her. Bella is running, jumping on tops of doors, purring, playing and having a great time. We are so grateful to the team at Willows for saving her life.”

Bella’s recovery has been possible thanks to a multidisciplinary approach here at Willows, in which we were able to call on the skills of our emergency and critical care, anaesthesia, physiotherapy and neurology teams. Bella was hospitalised with us for more than two weeks as she made her extraordinary recovery.

Fernanda Camacho, American Specialist in Emergency and Critical Care here at Willows, said: “Surviving prolonged CPR and being discharged from hospital is very rare, as only about one in 20 cases enjoy this outcome.

“Pretty much like a person after such a severe event, Bella has also had to learn some of the basics from scratch, such as eating and walking. She is still recovering but she can currently run, jump and eat well.

Physiotherapy has been key to Bella’s progression, to ensure she would not get a muscle contracture and to also teach her to walk again.

“Bella’s case clearly highlights the dangers that lilies can pose to cats. We would urge any cat owners who think their pet is displaying signs of contact with lilies to seek urgent veterinary attention.”


A cat who suffered from multiple injuries and was left in a coma-like state for three days having been hit by a car, has made an incredible recovery thanks to our team here at Willows.

It was touch and go for 13-year-old Simba after he was involved in the road accident, but he is happily now back to his old self following our specialist-led multidisciplinary approach to his treatment.

Even though he had no visible signs of head trauma, Simba had suffered a variety of injuries including multiple pelvic fractures, fluid in his chest and bruising to his lungs. Such was the seriousness of Simba’s condition, he was also comatose for three days before showing any signs of improvement.

It was following treatment in our dedicated intensive care unit that he started to recover and his road to full recovery was made possible thanks to the collaborative approach to care by our emergency and critical care, neurology, orthopaedic, anaesthesia and diagnostic imaging specialists.

Simba’s owner, Rebecca Tandy from Worcester, said: “We were very concerned because Simba had to have a lot of tests and we were unsure if he was going to make it as he was just so unwell.

“He was given only a 30 per cent chance of surviving but with all the care and attention from the multidisciplinary team at Willows, he made it.

“After discharge he still needed a few weeks in a crate before he was back to his usual self. He now has an amazing quality of life and can jump and play with other animals.”

Simba did not require any surgery on his head following the accident but did need an operation to repair his damaged pelvis.

Fernanda Camacho, American Specialist in Emergency and Critical Care here at Willows, led Simba’s treatment and explained: “Simba’s a remarkable cat and has astounded all of us with his recovery.

“He was quite unusual as he showed no signs of head trauma but was in a coma-like state for three days.

“We had to explain to his owners the severity of his condition but also advised them to stay positive, as cats are amazing at defying the odds and pulling through big traumas. “Simba responded well to treatment, including a blood transfusion, pelvic surgery, feeding via a tube, excellent ICU nursing care and it was a real team effort to get him back home to Worcester. It’s fantastic to hear he is completely back to his old self.”


Willows has launched a ground-breaking cardiology procedure for dogs only previously used in human healthcare.

The minimally invasive transeptal puncture (TSP) now being performed by our world-renowned cardiology team avoids opening the chest or heart and involves using minimally invasive techniques to pass a thin flexible tube from the right atrium through to the left-hand side of the heart.

Our pioneering team is one of only a few across Europe equipped to carry out the procedure, which aims to relieve the abnormal high pressures in the left atrium and hence reduce fluid within the lungs resulting from heart failure.

Typically, patients who undergo TSP, known as ‘beating-heart intervention’, can be discharged from hospital the day after surgery.

Fabio Sarcinella, an RCVS and European specialist in small animal cardiology here at Willows, said: “Early clinical evaluation of the TSP procedure in humans over the last few years has shown improved quality of life and reduced clinical signs in patients with heart failure.

“The procedure has also been associated with low-risk and a meaningful drop in left atrial pressure of the affected patients.”

An image of the Cardiology team assembled in an operating theatre looking at a screen.

Performed under general anaesthetic, the procedure itself involves making a small incision in the neck, allowing catheters to be guided into the heart through the jugular vein.

Catheters and needles are correctly placed within the right and left atrium by using fluoroscopic (live video-x-rays) and transoesophageal echocardiography (highly specialised ultrasound) guidance.

Fabio added: “As well as being minimally invasive, the improvement in heart chamber pressures via TSP often allows for a reduction in the dose of water tablets which are used to control the heart failure signs in the lungs. Lowering the dose reduces the risk of side effects related to these drugs such as kidney failure.”

TSP is most commonly used for left atrial decompression in dogs with heart failure and concurrent renal disease or that have advanced heart failure but continue to have symptoms despite optimal medical treatment.


A dog’s determination to walk again after being paralysed in a road traffic accident has astounded our expert team here at Willows.

Six-year-old Caesar, an American bulldog, was left with a fractured neck that meant he was paralysed in his front legs and had very little movement in his back legs, after being hit by a lorry.

However, our team who provided specialist-led multidisciplinary treatment to Caesar in the aftermath of his injuries have hailed his willpower to get back on all paws, leading a member of the team to proclaim: “Caesar is the most determined dog we have ever met.”

Caesar’s brush with death started when he ran across a busy road after snapping his lead when he became anxious of another dog.

Grateful owner Nigel Smith, from Worcester, said: “My wife was with Caesar when it happened and she was left distraught by it for a long time. There was a chance he wouldn’t survive the surgery or ever recover.

“The surgeon was very clear in the diagnosis and explanation of the treatment. They looked after him tremendously and were very aware of his anxiety around other dogs. I’m sure they had a soft spot for him.

“Amazingly, he’s now almost 100 per cent being back to how he used to be. He does have things that only we notice, such as a slight weakness on his right side and a droop in his right eye, but he does everything he used to do.

“The team at Willows do incredible things that would not normally seem possible.”

Caesar spent eight days with us after his surgery, which was performed by our head of neurology Sebastian Behr and our resident in veterinary neurology Victoria Indjova and has since undergone rehabilitation treatment at the hospital, including veterinary physiotherapy.

Victoria said: “Caesar wanted to move and walk as soon as he recovered from surgery. Our rehabilitation team started assisted physiotherapy exercises which encouraged him to start moving again.

“He enjoyed his rehabilitation sessions so much and became stronger each day until he was literally pulling us around the yard. Only eight days after surgery, Caesar was walking without any support from the hoist.

“Just three months later, Caesar has made a complete recovery and is back to running around his favourite field.

“It was a real team effort, involving our neurology specialists, dedicated neurology nurses, physiotherapists, nurses and veterinary care assistants.”


A dog owner has breathed a huge sigh of relief after his beloved English bulldog underwent lifesaving surgery here at Willows. 

Three-year-old Phoebe had two emergency operations with us in just three months after being badly affected by Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).

Indeed, Phoebe’s struggles with BOAS left her owner Lee O’Reilly, from Wishaw, West Midlands, fearing the worst on several occasions – including the night before his wedding.  

Lee confessed: “Phoebe had severe respiratory issues because of BOAS and there were times when I thought she was going to die.

“There were a couple of times when I was rushing her in for treatment and honestly didn’t think she would even make it to the vets.

“On the night before my wedding to my now-wife Victoria, I had been to the rehearsal ceremony and received a call afterwards saying Phoebe had collapsed in the garden, her tongue had gone black and she appeared to have stopped breathing.

“Luckily, a neighbour with a degree in animal science intervened on that occasion to open up her airways again and keep her alive.

“It really has been a traumatic time with Phoebe’s BOAS causing one crisis after another but thankfully the brilliant team at Willows have saved the day.”

Erika Villedieu, a European Specialist in small animal surgery here at Willows, helped lead Phoebe’s surgeries and subsequent recovery.

She said it was a challenging case, however, was confident Phoebe’s quality of life had not only been saved but had, in fact, been transformed.

Erika explained: “Phoebe first presented at Willows as an emergency, for management of a respiratory crisis.

“She was diagnosed with BOAS, a condition that commonly affects some popular flat-faced breeds. Her larynx had become very swollen, making it very difficult for her to breathe.

“Phoebe needed a temporary tracheostomy tube (a tube in the windpipe to bypass her upper airway) to allow her to breathe.

“Once her upper airway became less swollen the tube was removed and Phoebe underwent standard BOAS surgery to open up her airways.”

Normally, this operation makes a real difference to a dog’s gasping and breathing difficulties, however, Phoebe developed a secondary problem soon afterwards.

Erika continued: “Although Phoebe initially recovered well from the first operation, she suffered another respiratory crisis three months later and another temporary tracheostomy tube had to be placed.

“Phoebe was suffering from reflux and regurgitation, too, which is relatively common in dogs with BOAS, and can aggravate the respiratory signs.

“Phoebe was treated with medication and a change of diet for her regurgitation, and she improved.

“However, her breathing remained more laboured than it should and she was making a wheezy noise, which prompted more investigations.

“An airway examination under general anaesthesia revealed a Grade 3 laryngeal collapse, a serious condition and advanced stage of BOAS where the voicebox cartilages become soft and collapsed into the airway.

“I operated to remove a portion of the cartilages obstructing her voicebox (bilateral cuneiformectomy) and she also underwent correction of a hiatal hernia, an abnormally large opening in her diaphragm which could aggravate regurgitation signs.

“Phoebe then spent a few days in Willows’ specialist intensive care unit before going home with instructions to rest and continue her gastrointestinal medication.

“She has since recovered very well and her breathing has drastically improved, although she remains on limited exercise due to her underlying condition.”

Owner Lee added: “She is the loveliest little soul and a real sweetheart, and she’s so much better now. We’re very grateful to all the experts at Willows.

“We’ll have to manage her condition for the rest of her life, including carefully controlling her exercise and keeping her on a special diet but it is great to see her finally living the dream!

“We didn’t realise the problems associated with short muzzle breeds such as boxers and pugs and hope Phoebe’s case can highlight this issue among owners and potential owners.”


We are delighted to have added further to our impressive range of state-of-the-art ophthalmic equipment with the arrival of an ultra-modern fundus camera.

As well as registering specific lesions and monitoring their progress, the hi-tech fundus camera allows our Specialist-led Ophthalmology team to take photos of the back of a patient’s eye, which in turn will allow them to determine trends and establish possible hereditary diseases in certain breeds.

Rodrigo Pinheiro De Lacerda, our Head of Ophthalmology, said: “The arrival of our fundus camera is a huge boost for our patients and the hospital.

“It will allow us to provide an even higher level of eye care, not least by providing clients with a better understanding of their pet’s diseases.”  

The fundus camera also benefits us by allowing the training of residents, the teaching of referring vets through CPD or by sharing information on referral letters that the vets can then examine on their own.

Furthermore, it allows the opportunity for writing case reports describing unusual presentations of certain diseases.

Rodrigo added: “Our fundus camera opens up a raft of new opportunities that will further enhance the reputation of Willows as having one of the strongest veterinary ophthalmology teams in the UK.”

To find out more about our wide range of specialist services, including ophthalmology, email our team at enquiries@willows.uk.net.


Our newly appointed Clinical Director has pledged to ensure Willows’ state-of-the-art referral centre in the West Midlands remains at the heart of leading-edge veterinary care.

Chris Shales, a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), is keen to help introduce a range of exciting advances in treatment as part of his new role here at Willows.  

Chris, a European Specialist in Small Animal Surgery, was formerly our Head of Soft Tissue Surgery and has a proud track record of delivering innovative treatments at the hospital – with ambitious plans for more in the future.

He explained: “Willows is an amazing facility filled with outstanding people with unparalleled levels of skill, knowledge and experience.

“I can’t wait to explore the new ways in which I can help the team continue to keep providing the highest level of care for as many pets as possible.

“We are well aware our profession continues to evolve, as do the requirements of our hard-working referring vets.

“This dictates that the hospital also needs to continue to adapt both in terms of the way we work together and the facilities themselves.

“There are already a number of new Specialist procedures we have recently introduced at Willows, including our pioneering mitral-valve clamp programme with which our Cardiology team is leading the industry in the UK.

“I know the next few years will see even more significant changes at Willows and it is hugely exciting to be able to help drive these projects forward.”

Willows Managing Director Toby Gemmill has worked with Chris for more than a decade and is confident he and Hospital Director Tom Reilly, who was appointed to lead the hospital in October 2022, will form an impressive team.

Toby said: ““Chris’s appointment as Clinical Director is an exciting step for Willows, and I am looking forward to working with him and Tom as we continue to develop our services and our team.

“Chris is hugely experienced, is very widely respected, and is perfectly placed to continue our ‘commitment to excellence’ in everything we do.”

Chris joined our Soft Tissue Surgical team in 2009 and has since played a key role in developing the Willows’ brachycephalic airway, laparoscopic and interventional radiography services.

The Cambridge University graduate has also been programme director for the training of surgical residents and was recently awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for his outstanding contribution to clinical practice.

Chris describes his career to date as “a real rollercoaster of emotion”, adding: “Being a vet has certainly been a rich and varied profession so far, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

“The past 23 years have provided me with lots of memories ranging from amusing – for example, a dog eating one of the doorknobs from the owner’s house in protest at not being fed – to extremely sad, when people’s beloved companions become seriously unwell.”

Chris has had numerous research papers published and addressed both national and international conferences.

He’s also worked with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), the Association of Veterinary Soft Tissue Surgeons (AVSTS) and is currently a member of the programme committee of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons (ECVS). Outside of work, he is a keen rugby fan, cook, mountain biker, amateur landscape gardener and loves walking the hills with his family, Labrador Hattie and friends.