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Veterinarian explains the ‘high-risk’ surgery required to remove a tumor from George the goldfish

A beloved pet goldfish in Australia that underwent emergency surgery is now "swimmingly well," according to a veterinarian at the animal hospital. (Video: Reuters)

Goldfish: the reluctant carnival prize, the fish you don't expect to live more than a year or two, the pet you resign yourself to flushing down the toilet once it meets its maker.

But wait a minute -- you don't have to give up on a sick goldfish!

George, a 10-year-old goldfish in Australia, had a relatively large tumor on its head. So George's owners brought the fish to Lort Smith Animal Hospital in Melbourne, where a veterinarian successfully performed surgery on the pet. According to the hospital, the procedure last week went ... "swimmingly."

How do you operate on a goldfish? Well, first you call someone like Tristan Rich, head of Lort Smith's exotic and wildlife veterinarian team.

Rich set up numerous buckets with different levels of anesthetics, as the hospital's Facebook post described. Once George was knocked out, Rich ran a tube into the fish's mouth to pump water with a smaller dosage of anesthetic so that he remained under.

Next, the doctor removed a "large tumor" from George's head, using a specific type of medical sponge to help control George's bleeding. The size of George's wound made it "difficult to seal," according to the hospital. Rich managed to put in four rows of stitches, then used tissue glue to seal the rest of the wound.

George was then placed in a recovery unit and given oxygen, pain relief injections and antibiotics. The goldfish took a couple of breaths on his own, and he was back swimming in no time. The entire procedure lasted about 45 minutes, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The brain tumor had grown over the course of the year, and Rich told Yahoo7 News of Australia that "the fish was having trouble eating, getting around and he was getting bullied by other fish."

Rich told the Sydney Morning Herald that he gave George's owners "the option of trying to take [the tumor] off, or putting him to sleep." But the owners were "quite attached" to George, he said, and wanted to do everything they could to save his life.

George's owners, Lyn Orton and Pip Joyce, have 39 goldfish, some as old as 18, they told the Herald Sun, which reported that they paid $200 for the surgery.

The procedure "was so impressive, everyone was just amazed," Orton said. "Now he could live for another ten, maybe 20 years," she added. Her beloved fish, she said, “are not just things in the water ... they’re characters."

Rich told 3AW radio in Australia the procedure was "high-risk" and that he has performed goldfish operations a few times before.

Here's some footage of George swimming around back home, post-surgery, with his many buddies:

If only this type of goldfish medical procedure was available in the 1980s, then perhaps Dr. Huxtable wouldn't have to have held a solemn funeral for Lamont the Goldfish in this "Cosby Show" episode:

This post has been updated.