Case 1 - Dwarf Hamster. Ineffective medicine for hamster's chest swelling?
"Did Vet 1 say that the hamster's swelling or tumour will disappear after eating the drops of oil put inside its food or water?" the lady in her 30s showed me a small brown bottle of oil and a tube of eye ointment given by Vet 1.
bottle had some medication for rodents and a
heading in bold letters saying "Neoplasia,
mammary tumours and tissue indurations".
The label advised 5 drops should be given to
the hamster per day for "several weeks until
symptoms are seen to ease off".
"No," she shook her head. "My brother thinks that such medication is ineffective. I did not comment further.
"My advice is to anaesthesize the hamster and check out the swelling," I said. The swelling in the chest was firm. The hamster squeaked loudly the first time I palpated it and did not mind at later palpations. It felt tense like a balloon. Could it be a haematoma full of blood or a tumour?
As the hamster is easily stressed, I did not restrain it further. The owner had consulted me yesterday about this swelling after visiting Vet 1 and seeing no improvement in the swelling after a few days. She had consulted family members before deciding on anaesthesia and surgery for the hamster's chest swelling.
"Will my hamster die under anaesthesia?" she asked.
"No vet can guarantee that a hamster will be risk free under anaesthesia. I do have hamsters dying during anaesthesia. However, healthy and active hamsters seldom die."
When the vet thinks that the case is high risk for general anaesthesia, the patient dies. When the patient looks like a poor bet, he survives. So, I stop making predictions.
so much ill will when the hamster dies on the
operating table. Sometimes, it is better to
ask the owner to look for another vet if
anaesthesia and surgery is required rather
than prescribing some medication.
Many owners want instant cures and conservative treatment may take a long time. What Singapore pet owner wants is an instant cure. No excuses.
In this case, the dwarf hamster had an additional problem - a stye on its upper eyelid of the left eye. Eye ointment might be effective in this case if given time. However, the hamster rubbed its eye daily and eye tears and hair loss become evident. As this eye abscess had "pointed" by the time I was consulted, I was fortunate. Incision and drainage of the stye and the haematoma resolved this hamster's problems. If the eye abscess had not "ripened", the owner would have to wait a few days.
In conclusion, the vet is judged by performance. Confidence in the vet vaporises if the case is not satisfactorily treated. It is better to ask the owner to seek another veterinarian if the vet does not want to risk deaths on the operating table. A diversity of services sustains the profitability of the practice. The interest of the patient may conflict with economics of the practice many times and this is the veterinary dilemma of private practice.
2 - Syrian Hamster. Is treatment necessary for
the hamster's chest swelling?
"A Syrian hamster costs $18.00 but the veterinary treatment definitely costs much more," the young lady told me that her mother was not in favour of getting the hamster to the veterinarian.
The hamster did not seem to be bothered with the large chest swelling. I palpated it. There was no painful squeaks. It was much firmer than the haematoma. The hamster was 1.5 years old and therefore a tumour was possible. The swelling was not reddish unlike the above case and therefore a haematoma with blood accumulating inside was unlikely.
I could insert a needle into the swelling to aspirate the fluid. However, hamsters move around and their front paws swipe and sweep away any obstacles. The owner may get upset with all these manipulations causing stress to the hamster. Stress of handling and restraint may just kill him in front of the owner.
The treatment was incision and drainage under general anaesthesia. This Syrian hamster is at least 8 times bigger than the dwarf. After sedation and anaesthesia, I incised the chest swelling with a scalpel. Greenish yellow pus oozed out. The operating room had a strong foul decaying smell. At least 2 ml of malodorous pus was squeezed out from the chest muscles.
No stitching was done so as to get the residual pus to drain out. This hamster was fortunate to have a lady owner who got him treated in time. The decay in his chest muscle due to necrotic bacteria would have killed him if his immune system could not battle the invading bacteria. How did he get his infection? I don't know.
He was alive and would live to the end of his life as his toxic pus had been drained.
Conclusion of the 2 cases.
Two hamsters. Two chest swellings. The hamsters were past 1 year of age. The swellings were firm and solid. The dwarf hamster's haematoma had a reddish skin but the redness could be due to the hamster scratching it.
The Syrian hamster's encapsulated abscess also looked red if you see the picture below. Anaesthesia and surgery are necessary to resolve the case to the satisfaction of the owner and probably her mother. Surprising none of the two hamsters had tumours.
treatment is usually ineffective in the
treatment of many hamster tumours. Prescribing
oil medications may be homeopathy. However,
they will not work in large skin swellings
which may burst and get infected (cellulitis)
if not incised and drained surgically early.
Some develop into gigantic tumours (image,
left) or into big infected warts/tumours (as in the
hamster case from Beijing, see case below.)
In this internet age, the younger owners know where to source for information. In this litigious society, it is best to refer the owner to other vets if one if not comfortable with handling of such cases. For similar reasons, I reject avian and fish cases and ask the owners to seek other vets.