Veterinarian Wins High Praise for Saving Goldfish

Removing a goldfish brain tumor took 45 minutes and attracted worldwide attention.

Dr. Tristan Rich performs surgery on George the goldfish at Lort Smith Animal Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

Nicole Dorling

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George the goldfish is back in his home pond after an Australian veterinarian successfully removed a brain tumor.

The 45-minute operation on an uncommon veterinary patient cost the owners a couple of hundred dollars, according to Lort Smith Animal Hospital, and brought admiration from around the world as news and photographs of the surgery went viral.

“Thanks for treating fish with the respect they deserve,” one Facebook user wrote on the clinic’s page.

“That might be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” another wrote. “And to those that question the use of financial resources for a goldfish, some varieties can fetch amazingly high prices. Some are treasured pets. Who are we to judge?”

The International Brain Tumor Alliance weighed in as well, stating, “We have heard of dogs and cats having brain tumors removed, but this is the first time we have heard of a fish undergoing brain surgery. Way to go, George!”

The doctor was Tristan Rich, BVSc, who heads exotics and wildlife medicine at the Melbourne hospital.

“The fish was having trouble eating, getting around and he was getting bullied by other fish,” Dr. Rich told The Telegraph newspaper.

“It was quite a large tumor—we had to scrape it off his skull. When it was all done we woke him up in a clean bucket of water.”

The 3-ounce, 10-year-old George “came through it swimmingly,” Rich added.

How was the surgery performed? Lort Smith Animal Hospital explained the Sept. 10 operation step by step in a Facebook post.

The process began with “three buckets—one with a knockout dose of anesthetic, one with a maintenance level of anesthetic and one with clean water as the recovery unit.”

“Once George was asleep,” the clinic reported, “Dr. Tristan ran a tube from the maintenance bucket, which was being oxygenated, into George’s mouth so that the water with the maintenance dose of anesthetic washed over his gills.

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“Dr. Tristan worked quickly to remove the large tumor, although the size of it meant that he had to use a gelatin sponge to control the bleeding during surgery. The size of the wound meant it was difficult to seal, so Dr. Tristan put in four sutures, then sealed the rest of the wound with tissue glue.

“Once that had set, George was placed in the recovery unit and given oxygen. He was given injections with long-acting pain relief and antibiotics. Soon afterwards he took a couple of breaths on his own and started swimming around.”

Lort Smith Animal Hospital, Australia’s largest not-for-profit animal hospital, gave a special pat on the fin to the veterinarian.

“Working with unusual pets and wildlife means that Dr. Tristan has developed a lateral approach to creating effective theater set-ups, and we are always amazed at the way he finds a way to help these little critters.”

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