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LEMOORE — While films like “Finding Nemo” popularized the myth that fish have three-second memories, one Valley veterinarian recently gained a memory she’ll likely be able to recall for a long time.

Dr. Kait Betchel of Karing for Kreatures Veterinary Hospital in Lemoore recently conducted a surgery on a pet fancy goldfish.

“This was my first time doing lone fish surgery,” Betchel said, adding that she had assisted in a similar surgery during her training.

The surgery, which took place in late June, sought to remove a mass slightly larger than a pencil eraser near its dorsal fin.

When a mass, such as this one, grows too large, it can impact a fish’s ability to swim, or even sink it altogether.

“Once the mass gets big enough and the fish can’t swim well, it will cause the fish to pass away,” Betchel said.

The goldfish is about six years old, and can expect to live to be nearly twice that age if it remains healthy.

Not to be confused with a run-of-the-mill goldfish that could be won during a game of ring toss at a carnival, this coy-like goldfish was favored by its owner, due to its size and the many years she’d had it, Betchel said, which prompted the surgery rather than a simple apathetic burial-by-flushing.

The surgery proved to be a literal fish-out-of-water situation. While the actual mass removal was no more involved than it would be with any other animal, the difficulty was in the details.

Throughout the 20-minute operation, anesthetized water was run through the fish’s mouth and out the gills in order for it to be operated on out of water.

The fish is now back at home, recuperating.

Betchel is no stranger to the stranger denizens of the animal world.  She said that the most exotic animal to enter her operating room would either be the goldfish or a tegu, which is a lizard-like reptile than can reach four feet in length and weigh as much as 50 pounds.

The doctor received extra training in exotic pet medicine and shadowed vets specializing in aquatic animals, avian animals and reptiles during her schooling.

“I’ve always had an interest in exotics,” she said, adding that she’s had a “whole zoo” of exotic pets over the years. In fact, Karing for Kreatures --  or K&K --  has a pair of interesting office assistants – a duo of ferrets, which she took in after they were dumped off at her alma mater In Arizona.  

She said that at least a couple of times a day, she’ll provide care for a bird or a reptile – usually snakes.

“We’ve become known for that, so people seek us out for our exotic care,” she said.

The hospital’s Instagram profile hosts dozens of photos of the hospital’s staff posing with various patients including pigs, parrots, bearded dragons and other critters.

While birds, snakes and rodents may seem like easy enough pets, Betchel advises that new pet owners come in at least once initially for a wellness check and for education on how to properly care for less-common animals -- and to as clear up any misconceptions they may have.

Many diseases that birds and lizards may get down the road in life stem from the way they’re raised, so it’s important to know exactly how to feed and house them, Betchel said.

K&K offers free wellness to animals adopted from PetSmart and Exotic Reptiles Visalia to make sure pets get off to a good start in life.

Generally, many types of exotic pets are self-sufficient and don’t need vaccines, they can get sick and various species have inclinations to watch out for. For example, Betchel said, rabbits and snakes are apt to get respiratory illnesses.

“We do see a fair amount of sick exotics,” she said.

K&K will celebrate its first year of business from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 20 with a pooch party.  The open-to-the-public celebration will feature treat bags and pet cones for pups, as well as a photo booth, raffle prizes, SPCA adoptions and awards for the cutest and ugliest pets.

For more information, visit https://kkvetservices.com or call 559-997-1121. Karing for Kreatures Animal Hospital is located at 377 Hill St., Lemoore.

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Contact the reporter at pbowman@hanfordsentinel.com

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