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Date:   11 August, 2011  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles &
rabbits
 
My 3 Dwarf Hamsters - Follow up on Surgery
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Date:   11 August, 2011  
Surprisingly, I got two phone calls regarding 3 dwarf hamsters this Monday morning Jul 25, 2011 after the 3 dwarf hamsters had survived a high-risk surgery and had gone home for over 2 days. The following were my 3 dwarf hamster patients.

CASE 1 - THE HAMSTER WITH A PUNGENT RIGHT EAR SMELL  - Hamster 1.
CASE 2 - THE HAMSTER WITH A HEAVY LEFT HIND LEG - Hamster 2.
CASE 3 - THE HAMSTER WITH TWO LARGE BREAST TUMOURS - Hamster 3.

1. Hamster 1 and 2, Female, 2 years old. Siblings.

The slim lady owner in her 30s phoned up. It was day 3 after surgery. "The amputee (Hamster 2) attempted to bite her stitches. What should I do?" she asked. "Not much can be done," I said. "You can't put an e-collar on the hamster as she will strongly dislodge it. How about a plaster bandage? It is not practical."  So there was nothing she could do but wait and see.
 
"How's the hamster with the ear operation?" I asked. Hamster 1 had an ear canal ablation surgery. This meant that her vertical canal had been cut away as it was rotten and had tumours. "She is eating," the lady said. "She objected strongly to my cleaning off blood from ear. So I had done once only." I advised to do more cleaning. It was an operation performed under isoflurane gas anaesthesia only. It was very stressful to the dwarf hamster as it would be painful. She took 2 days to recover.

Hamster 1 - Itchy and rotting-smelly right ear - Ear Canal Ablation Surgery. This operation is rarely done in dwarf hamsters but the surgical approach is almost similar to that done in a dog.   
over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore The ear canal was full of white "sand" particles as well as tumours (irritation due to sand?), pus and dead cells
over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore
over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore
Hamster 1. A rare ear canal ablation surgery completed in this dwarf hamster. This surgery is common in the dog. See: The "reasonable" man test in a court of law

Hamster 2 (amputee). The lady owner confirmed that the leg tumour was only 5 mm diameter 6 weeks ago. "Like a face pimple," she said. But it grew furiously big to 1.5 cm. I had to amputate the leg above the knee. The hamster started exercise wheeling. 30 g before surgery. After surgery, her weight was 19 g. There was a lot of blood loss

Hamster 2- A fast-growing bony leg tumour is being removed to save her life
dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets
dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets
dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets  
Hamster 2 - The leg had to be amputated as the tumour involved the bone below the knee and above the hock.


Feedback from owner who noted/performed the following:
1. Lowered water bottle. Can't drink as only one hind leg.
2. Food bowl too high now. Hard to climb out. Use bowl from those used in Chinese household for chilli and soya sauce. A bit of spillage but hamster could eat.
3. Tempted with favourite bean sprouts. Then give baytril oral.
This hamster needed sedation IM. First day, one drop Zoletil 50 IM. No effect. Just looked at me. So, suspend all operation till 24 hours later. 2nd day, 3 drops OK. Leg bone tumour extended to inguinal. Amputated. Quite active within 1 hour.

My Advices
No exercise wheel. Stitches quite many. Blue nylon 5/0
Continue on paper litter. Not so rough. But hamsters loved to shred them.

I have written a report 14 days after surgery in Hamster 1 and 2 in: Say "break a leg" to a theatre performer. Or "break a ear" to a hamster vet?

BREAK A LEG
dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets 14 days ago, an explosive bony growth on her left hind leg  
dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets Leg amputation surgery follow-up 14 days after amputation. Blue nylon stitches were cut away
  dwarf hamster, 2 years, small leg pimple to huge bony tumour in 4 weeks, amputation,toapayohvets
BREAK A EAR
over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore 14 days ago, bad body odour Ear canal ablation surgery follow-up 14 days after removal of the vertical ear canal
over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore over-powering bad decaying smell, dwarf hamster, right ear, toapayohvets singapore

tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)4415- 4423. Two older sibling hamsters are normal and active 14 days after surgery. A much earlier veterinary treatment would have saved a lot of worries and reduced risks. But Singaporeans live in a hectic world and it is difficult to advise "early detection saves lives"! It so happens that there are two happy endings for the siblings. It is not a given that hamsters will survive the anaesthesias and handling surgical stresses. 


2. Hamster 3 - 81 g. Operated to remove two large breast tumours.
She loves bread and so the wife fed her more bread. She put on lots of weight. An average dwarf hamster weighs around 30-40 g. I doubt she could survive the anaesthesia and surgery. But she proved me wrong.

Hamster 3. The overweight dwarf hamster had two large breast tumours which bothered her a lot. Would she survive anaesthesia?
Be alert to surprises during surgery. The hamster's spleen pops out. toapayohvets, singapore The spleen was seen after two breast tumours were excised
tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)4326 - 4336. Surgery itself does have  complications sometimes. The spleen pops out unexpectedly!  
Hamster 3. The two large breast tumours were excised. The spleen came out from the abdomen but was put back. The abdominal defect was stitched. The hamster survived as at Day 14 after surgery.

The husband rushed down to the Surgery. Two 5/0 nylon stitches bitten off today on Day 8. Bleeding. Wife phoned. OK at clinic. No bleeding. Cut off two entangled nylon stitches. 1 remaining. The husband did not want it cut off. To observe. To reduce weight further. 79 g now. The tangled transparent 5/0 nylon stitches were taken out as shown below:
 

 
  Day of Surgery. Zoletil IM used as anaesthetic
dwarf hamster 8 days after breast tumour surgery, wounds heal well. toapayohvets, singapore dwarf hamster 8 days after breast tumour surgery, wounds heal well. toapayohvets, singapore dwarf hamster 8 days after breast tumour surgery, wounds heal well. toapayohvets, singapore

Be alert to surprises during surgery. The hamster's spleen pops out. toapayohvets, singapore 8 Days After Surgery. No further complaints over 14 days after surgery. This is the high-risk surgery that I thought would be death on the operating table as the dwarf hamster is overweight and had a lot of bleeding. Her spleen also popped out when the breast tumours was excised. I had taken a picture to prove it! 

Feedback from the owner:   Fully active and normal on Day 3 but would eat after operation. Daily exercise on wheel. Owner quite happy. No phone calls >14 days after surgery. I presume that the dwarf hamster is in good health and reducing her weight!  Target is 50 g. No more bread!

In conclusion, there are 3 happy endings in these 3 hamsters. However, no vet, including myself, can have 100% happy endings for high-risk hamster anaesthesias. It is like going to battles. There will be casualties and injuries to the vet's reputation if he engages in more high-risk surgeries instead of passing the buck to other vets.

The hamster owner needs to be vigilant and to check her hamster daily for small growths. A "pimple" is easily removed and in shorter time. Do not procrastinate. It is a world-wide complaint amongst hamster owners that there are few vets willing to treat hamsters. There will be some but you need to find them. It is not so difficult like finding needles in the haystack.

The internet is nowadays very helpful but the main point is that, get the tumours excised by a vet when they are very small. Not when they grow massively as by then, they become high-risk surgeries. No vet want to operate on high-risk surgeries and ruin his or her reputation for a few dollars more. Word of mouth referrals are the vet's main business built-up. No referrals if the hamster dies on the operating tables. Which owner wants to refer to vets who provide poor clinical outcomes? Yet many deaths are due to high-risk surgeries done belatedly. Still the vet gets the blame and the bad-mouthing. Who else to blame? Very rarely do owners blame themselves for seeking treatment too late!       

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