"Why didn't you see such a
large tumour on the hamster's hand?" I asked the mother who
brought it in for surgery and hoped that it would not die under
anaesthesia as the only one performed by a vet. It was a large
tumour on the breast area and the hamster died during surgery.
"Not all hamsters survive anaesthesia," I said. "Much depends on
the health and age of the hamster although the experience of
the vet helps but there is no guarantee even with experienced
"Usually he hides inside the
litter and eat and so we didn't see it."
Gigantic tumours in the hand
(paws) may be inoperable. The whole paw will then need to be
amputated. Front paws are like our hands and are very important
for the hamster.
"What is your surgical approach to this case?" I asked Dr Daniel.
"Amputate the paw," he replied.
"That's what I thought at first," I asked him to hold the gentle
18-month-old dwarf hamster for me to take digital images of
various positions of the hand tumour. The hamster was put in a
bowl and we observed him climbing out of the bowl.
The tumour was gigantic. Imagine your hand having the biggest
durian growing out of it.
"It is possible to excise the tumour without amputation," I said
to Dr Daniel. "But the vet needs to produce a live hamster at the
end of the surgery. To succeed, the surgery must be short and the
anaesthesia must be sufficient to prevent pain. Severe pain may
kill the hamster as in the bird."
No point doing an excellent
surgery and showing a dead hamster on the operating table.
"Isoflurane gas anaesthesia is too short and too risky if
prolonged," I said to Dr Daniel. "I will use Zoletil 50 IM."
In a cat and dog, IM injections are common and routine. In a dwarf
hamster, the needle must be just into the thin backside muscle.
Not much of the muscles. Dr Daniel held the hamster while I
injected 0.02 ml Zoletil 50 diluted with 0.03 ml saline and
Try not to amputate as the
hamster needs the front paw
for eating & grooming. I
used the above digital
images to assess the
Zoletil sedation provides
analgesia in large tumour
excision. Top up with
isoflurane + O2 is needed
The tumour is sliced off
with a scalpel
The front paw is saved. The
large wound will be dressed
daily by the owner and will
heal by granulation. As at 6
days after surgery, no
complaints from the owner
5663 - 5670. Try not to
amputate the front paw
"The hamster will become groggy if the IM injection is given
correctly," I said. In 60 seconds, the hamster stumbled. Dr Daniel
operated. "Give isoflurane gas top up when the hamster moves," I
said. "Otherwise he may die from fright and severe pain." The
whole procedure took less than one minute.
"Should more tumour tissues be cut off," Dr Daniel asked. "No," I
said. "The area is down to the bone and tendons. Any further
incision will damage the superficial flexor tendons and the
hamster will not be able to hold his seeds and grains with the
The hamster appeared groggy
during the first hour after anaesthesia and this is a common
observation. The mother was very happy to see him alive as her son
was the one most concerned. Produce good anaesthetic outcome and
you get more referrals. It is extremely risky to anaesthesia
hamsters for long surgeries as they don't survive. Be observant
and be careful.
The owner did not want histopathology as it would cost money. It
was a firm white tumour. Could it be a schwannoma? A nerve sheath
tumour? Examine your hamster daily and get small tumours excised
by your vet early. Tumours don't disappear with antibiotics and
so, find a vet who operates on hamsters.
I saw another case of a lady who brought in a hamster saying there
was a small lump on the belly area. This hamster had been licking
bald the lower part of the belly, below the navel. I held the
hamster and felt the nodule which was around 2 mm in diameter. The
hamster squealed. However, the owner's preferred vet could not
feel any nodule and so sent the hamster home with oral medication
and asked to review it in 2 weeks' time. Owners know their
hamsters best and if they find a nodule, it is usually there.
UPDATE ON NOV 20, 2012
I advised the owner to bring the hamster in when she noticed a
small growth. I will then do not need to amputate if I can locate
the origin of the tumour.
However, her son who brought in the hamster said: "The hand tumour
grows very fast in the last 7 days." I had no choice but to
amputate at the wrist joint. I wanted to amputate higher up in
case there are remnants of the tumour if I amputate at the wrist
joint. However, the poor hamster may not be able to grip his seeds
and enjoy a high quality of life nor can he groom himself. So, I
used electricity to excise at the wrist joint. It is 7 days after
surgery and so far, no complaints.
- 5765. Hand tumour recurs. Amputation at the