A top vet saved the life of a goldfish in a series of intricate surgical procedures by removing a tumour from its eye.
These incredible photographs show the extraordinary surgical procedures to remove the gruesome growth which had “bits falling off”.
William Wildgoose, 62, later saved ten-inch-long Speckle’s life after he removed the whole eye when the tumour rapidly grew back and turned black.
The ornamental fish specialist treated the fish for two years at the Midland Veterinary Surgery in east London.
He anaesthetised Speckle in a tank before each eight-minute surgery using tiny clamps, forceps, scalpel and cauteriser.
Mr Wildgoose first tried to save Speckle’s left eye by removing the tumour and ultrasound scans showed the fibroma – or benign tumour – was only growing on its surface.
But he was forced to remove the whole eyeball when the cancer grew back and turned black.
He also removed tumours on the fish’s back and treated a bowel condition that made Speckle swim on his side with antibiotics.
A veterinary nurse had to pour water on Speckle’s gills on the operating table every three minutes to stop him suffocating.
Mr Wildgoose had to work fast as the longer the operations the more risk Speckle would die from the anasthetic.
He charged a total of £350 after seeing the beloved gold-and-white speckled pet a total of seven times at his surgery.
Mr Wildgoose said: “These tumours quite often appear in different parts of the body, they are common in goldfish; they are not common in the eye.
“Initially it got bigger and then at times bits fell off and before it got much bigger.
“The biggest issue was probably the physical size of the tumour. It can affect its swimming ability and being unable to see meant it bashed into things and that caused bits to break off.
“I’ve probably removed about a dozen fish eyes altogether, but there are some cases that don’t survive.
“The ones that do survive are the ones with big lumps like this because over time it pulls the eye gently out of it socket and stretches the nerve.
“It is not possible to remove the whole tumour in most fish cases and sometimes the best you can do is reduce the size of them and leave the remaining tissue to settle down.
“We felt the most practical solution was going to be to remove the whole eye.
“By the time it got bigger and black it wasn’t able to see anything out of eye so it’s not as if we could improve on that.”
Mr Wildgoose, a partner at the Midland Veterinary Surgery in east London, carried out seven procedures on the speckled gold-and-white fish from April 2013.
He treated Speckle for a bowel condition which was making him swim on his side and he lived on two years.
The vet admitted being saddened to hear Speckle later died aged 16 from an incurable disease that made him blow up like a “pinecone” in 2015 called “dropsy”.
Mr Wildgoose has treated thousands of fish including an eight-foot-long lemon shark during his 40-year career.
He said: “I probably see cases like this every five years so it was an unusual case and a lot of what gets done is usually determined by owners’ willingness to go ahead and if they are willing to pay for a professional service.
“Sometimes they think ‘it’s just a goldfish’ and therefore it’s not worth having any money being spent on it.
“Once it developed dropsy I felt sad for the fish after everything it had been through.
“I was always realistic about how things were going to turn out with Speckle – sooner or later there is going to come a point when we do feel attached to them because of all the time and effort invested getting them through their particular problems.
“So it does come naturally as a disappointment that some other disease comes along that you cannot treat and which finally finishes them off.”
But Mr Wildgoose, who only charged Speckle’s owner Sophia Smith for his time and costs, said the case had contributed to veterinary science on pet fish.
He had taken X-rays of Speckle after he came in to be treated for a bowel infection causing him to swim on his side two months after having his eye removed.
The vet said: “The X-rays show that the shape of the skull changes after the eye is removed. This is more or less proof why the artificial eyes fell out in an American study written a few years ago.
“Externally, you can see the empty eye socket gradually gets more and more shallow… the underlying bone just ‘melts’ away and the whole area smooths over completely, making it impossible to get an artificial eye to stay in place.
“There’s a lot of things about pet fish health that I like to put straight from a scientific point of view.”
Sophia, a psychology graduate from north London, said she got Speckle as a Christmas present from her parents when he was tiny 16-years-ago.
Speckle was buried in a coffin in her back garden after he died from the incurable dropsy 18 months ago.
She said: “A lot of people thought I was really odd.
“I think there’s a kind of division people make with animals – they would do anything for their cats or dogs but when it comes with fish they would not do much.
“I really cared for him because he was 16 when he died so I grew up with Speckle.”
She said having his eye removed didn’t seem to bother her pet: “Speckle was a very very strong fish, he just kind of went on his normal daily business like nothing had even changed.”
Speaking of the months before Speckle died, she said: “It was upsetting because I have known Speckle for a long time but because he did have that disease it was quite sad to see him. In a way it didn’t really come as a surprise and it was a kind of relief because I could see he was suffering.”