Case Notes from Beyond the Clinic: specialist Dan discusses heatstroke prevention and the vital role of emergency and critical care

Dan Lewis is a dual-boarded specialist in emergency and critical care (ECC) and the national clinical lead in ECC for IVC Evidensia. He shares a glimpse into his multifaceted role and his passion for the intense and rewarding nature of ECC. He discusses the importance of awareness around heatstroke in dogs, and what veterinary professionals can do to prevent it.

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Can you tell us about yourself and your role with IVC Evidensia?

I'm a specialist in emergency and critical care (ECC), so essentially emergency medicine and surgery and then looking after patients in the ICU. I'm boarded in both the American and the European colleges of ECC. I'm also a practising specialist, I do two days of clinical work a week. Currently I'm at Blaise Referrals near Birmingham. Before that I was mostly at Vets Now Glasgow, but I tend to go around the country a bit and spend time with various teams across the IVC Evidensia network working within ECC. I'm also the national clinical lead in ECC for IVC Evidensia.

What does it mean to be the national clinical lead for emergency and critical care (ECC)?

My role is to provide clinical input regarding emergency or critical care for the non-clinical team, the first opinion team, or anybody else! Some of that will be clinical enquiries, such as answering questions from first-opinion practices. It’s also more strategic things, such as working on growing the ECC provision throughout IVC Evidensia network across Europe, which involves quite a lot of liaising with vets.

Can you tell us about your career journey and how you came to have an interest in ECC?

I was always quite interested in emergency and critical care stuff, even when I was at vet school. It's probably a reflection of a low boredom threshold! There’s a lot of mental and physical stimulation that comes along with seeing critically ill patients, especially emergency ones. For a lot of ECC people, that tends to be self-reinforcing because you do see patients in dire circumstances where often you can make quite a considerable difference. It's a rewarding thing to do, to receive very sick patients and make a tangible difference for them.
When I graduated, ECC in the UK wasn't well-established. There were probably a couple of people doing what we would identify as ECC nowadays and it only really started to get going a few years after I graduated. I initially went into mixed practice, and while there, I developed an interest in anaesthesia and did an RCVS certificate in anaesthesia.

After about four years in mixed practice, I moved to a hospital that was in charge of emergency out-of-hours cover for the whole of Greater Manchester. I was there for about eight years and then realised I wanted to do ECC forever. That led me to do my residency. After that, I worked at the University of Bristol vet school for a couple of years. Then I came back to Vets Now in Glasgow and have been involved with the team there ever since!

Your episode of Beyond the Clinic is about heat stroke. Could you tell us why this topic is important to you?

Heat stroke is really interesting for a lot of ECC people because it's a pretty unpleasant disease, mainly affecting dogs rather than cats. Dogs can be stricken with it and pushed into critical illness very quickly, just over a matter of hours. It's a challenging disease to treat, but largely preventable with increased veterinary and owner awareness. When [podcast host] Daniella suggested I take part in the podcast, heat stroke was a natural choice because we wanted to raise awareness and hopefully reduce these cases. Ideally, we'd eliminate heat stroke cases, which is why summer is a critical time to discuss this, especially with our climate where sudden heat waves can be particularly harmful to pets.

What key message would you like vet professionals to take away from your episode?

There’s no ulterior motive for any vet or nurse to offer advice on preventing heat stroke, all we can hope is to prevent harm to our patients. There are simple things like monitoring weather reports for high temperatures, avoiding exercise during hot periods, and ensuring pets have ways to cool themselves. If any heat-related issues start, immediate first aid by owners is crucial before seeking veterinary care.

What keeps you passionate and motivated in your work?

It's the variety and the challenge. Every day brings something new and working in a team environment, especially in emergency and critical care, is incredibly fulfilling. ECC allows us to create high-performing teams that can really make a difference in patient outcomes. Teaching is also a big part of it. I enjoy teaching residents and colleagues, sharing knowledge and improving care standards.

What are you proudest of in your career so far?

Probably going back to do a residency after 12 years in first opinion practice. Also, I'm proud of establishing a residency program that has helped other clinicians in Glasgow and beyond reach their potential in ECC!

What are you looking forward to in the future?

Work-wise, I'm interested in widening opportunities for specialist roles, possibly through non-traditional residencies. Also, I'm focused on introducing more quality assurance in IVC referral services to ensure we're delivering top-notch care consistently.

Personally, I'm going climbing in Greenland soon, which I'm really excited about.

Climbing in Greenland sounds amazing. Do you have any other hobbies?

I'm also into sailing and paddle boarding in the Lake District, and in winter, I coach a rugby team.