A top vet at one of the UK’s leading small animal hospitals has used a pig’s cornea to save a young bulldog from becoming blind. 

Three-year-old Marley had already lost his left eye after suffering a deep corneal ulcer which had perforated the eyeball. 

So, when he was diagnosed with an identical problem in the right eye, his owners Michael and Carol Bradley, from Walsall, feared he would completely lose his sight. 

However, Alberto Palella Gomez, a clinician in veterinary ophthalmology at the renowned Linnaeus-owned Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service in Solihull, West Midlands, had a plan to ensure Marley would keep his vision. 

Alberto explained: “Marley had a right-sided deep corneal ulcer which, in the absence of other ocular abnormalities, probably started as superficial defect and progressed to a deep corneal ulcer due to bacterial contamination. 

“Marley had previously undergone right-sided corneal surgery at his referring veterinary practice where they had performed a conjunctival pedicle graft but unfortunately that had failed. They had also removed his left eye, so Marley came to us at serious risk of another perforation, and was in danger of losing his remaining eye.” 

Fortunately for Marley, Willows is an internationally-renowned centre of excellence for ophthalmology cases and its expert team and state-of-the-art equipment enables them to regularly treat the most complicated corneal cases, which include corneal grafting from donated tissue. 

This tissue actually comes from deceased pigs’ corneas. These corneas are bio-engineered for use in repairing corneal ulcers such as Marley’s and have been used extensively in veterinary and human medicine. 

Alberto said: “We perform corneal surgery here at Willows on a daily basis and corneal grafting is one of these such procedures. 

“We successfully performed a right-sided corneal transplant to repair the defect. Marley recovered really well from surgery and not only was he able to keep his remaining eye, he has also regained excellent vision in that eye as the cornea became almost completely transparent.” 

Delighted owner Michael said: “We can’t praise Alberto and Willows enough. We’d absolutely recommend them to other pet owners. Marley’s right eye is absolutely fine again now. He’s not on any medication at all and he’s doing really well. We couldn't be more grateful.” 

Willows offers specialist services in anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, clinical nutrition, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, soft tissue surgery and spinal surgery. 

To find out more about Willows’ wide range of specialist services, visit www.willows.uk.net or search for Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service on Facebook. 

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