An experienced clinician at a leading Cumbrian animal hospital has fulfilled a lifelong ambition after passing exams to become a European Specialist in small animal surgery.

Gemma Holloway, at Linnaeus-owned Kentdale Referrals in Milnthorpe, has gained her ECVS diploma confirming her as a European specialist in small animal surgery.

To celebrate the momentous event, Gemma hopped on a plane with partner Ed Canning to tick off another long-held ambition with a trip to Iceland!

Gemma explained: “I began studying to become a specialist in 2019 and have worked long and hard to pass the exams, so I’m naturally delighted to have been successful in realising my ambition.

“To celebrate, my partner and I took a much-needed holiday to Iceland, a place I have always wanted to visit. We really enjoyed exploring and are already planning to go back!

“Now the exams are over, I can relax a little more and enjoy my hobbies and interests again, without feeling guilty that I should be studying.

“I have already been getting out hiking as much as possible and I love kayaking, wild swimming and spending time with my dogs.”

Gemma won’t be sidetracked from her primary focus of caring for sick and injured animals though.

The newly qualified Specialist, who graduated from Bristol University in 2009 before moving north in 2016, said: “Kentdale Referrals is well known for its high quality orthopaedic, soft tissue and neurosurgery specialist care.

“Total hip replacement is surgery I find particularly satisfying and an area I would now like to develop further, along with considering other forms of joint replacement.

“I also have a passion for dealing with wounds and reconstructive surgery and I’m exploring some exciting projects in this area which I am looking forward to developing further.”

Gemma cites two recent cases to highlight just how rewarding it can be working to make a real difference in the lives of animals and their owners.

She continued: “One case which stays in my memory was a lovely young Labrador named Dave, who was only nine months old and could hardly walk because his hip dysplasia was so severe.

“We did a total hip replacement for his left hip and he improved hugely, but still struggled with the other side, so two months later he had his right hip replaced.

“He recovered brilliantly from both surgeries and it was wonderful to see his transformation to the active young Labrador he was always supposed to be.

“Another case that stands out is a tiny Maltese terrier named Min, who came to me for treatment of atlantoaxial subluxation (misalignment of the 1st and 2nd cervical vertebrae).

“Min was tiny at only 1.6kg and had endured a tough start in life, having been the runt of her litter and having already undergone multiple procedures for patella luxation, which had severely disabled her as a puppy.

“Her small size meant it was a very fiddly procedure to stabilise her cervical spine, my colleague Graham Hayes used her CT scans to create 3D printed drill guides to allow me to accurately place the screws in the very narrow safe corridor of bone.

“Everything went well and she made a remarkable recovery from her surgery too, which was so rewarding.”

Kentdale Referrals is a specialist-led hospital offering expert services in diagnostic imaging, arthroscopy, anaesthesia, orthopaedic surgery, spinal surgery, soft tissue surgery and physiotherapy.

For more information on Kentdale Referrals, visit or search for Kentdale Referrals on social media.

Back to news