tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)TOA PAYOH VETS

Date:   07 January, 2009

 Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters & rabbits

Mastectomy MG4 and MG5. Female Dog. 7 years. Toa Payoh Vets
tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)1904.  Penny Wise, Pound Foolish. Mastectomy in the female dog.
*10 a.m - 5 p.m (Mon - Sun, except Sat). Dr Sing Kong Yuen. By Appointment Only.

*6 p.m - 10 p.m (Mon - Fri). 10am - 5pm (Sat). Dr Jason Teo. House-calls available.

Appointment preferred.
Tel: 6254-3326, 9668-6469
11 p.m to 6 a.m
Dr Teo
9668-6469, 6254-3326
Fax: +65 6256 0501
Be Kind To Pets
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Toilet training your puppy in Singapore  Dr Sing's research book to be published

Toa Payoh Vets Clinical Research
Making veterinary surgery alive
to a veterinary student studying in Australia
using real case studies and pictures

Case updated:
07 January, 2009
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS

Dwarf hamster, male, 6 months. Large foreleg tumour. Singapore. Toa Payoh Vets"Will my hamster die under general anaesthesia?" the career woman asked over the phone. She had put the hamster in the Surgery early in the morning and had gone home.

"There is always a risk," I noted that her hamster, though only 6 months old, was as rounded as a sumo wrestler. "No vet can guarantee that the hamster will never die on the operating table. The tumour is so big and therefore the hamster will need a longer anaesthetic time."

The lady would phone me back as she had to think again. Why didn't she get the tumour removed when it was very small?  She was busy in her career. The tumour just grew very fast.  Today was the last day of 2008 and I had hoped to work half day. I did not want to suffer from "karoshi" or death from overwork. Yet there seemed to be more cases in the afternoon. A cat came in for spaying and now this hamster with a big hand tumour.  

Dwarf hamster, male, 6 months. Large foreleg tumour. Singapore. Toa Payoh VetsThe lady phoned to give permission to proceed with the surgery but I could not do it immediately. She came with her husband at 4 p.m. when I had completed my consultations. "Your assistant said that the hamster is quiet," the lady was worried that today was not the appropriate time for surgery. She had also reduced his food intake.

"You hamster looks normal and behaved normally," I had observed this hamster in the morning when I took some pictures on a sunny morning. Bright sunlight gives me excellent pictures. The hamster was running around on the table making it hard to snap good pictures of his tumour for review.  Hamsters are usually quiet in the day time as they are nocturnal animals. But in Singapore, they seem to be active anytime. So are they nocturnal animals or not?

"There must be no further postponement of the surgery as the tumour grows so big. The hamster has bitten it off and it has become infected at its centre - see the black hole in the centre of the tumour.

The lady and her husband were aware of the black necrotic spot in the centre of the bitten off tumour. 

"It is very painful for the hamster to have a bleeding and raw flesh in his left front leg. He needs the front legs to groom himself and now he cannot do a good job with such a large lump of tissue on his left hand.

"I will try to shell out the tumour and stitch the skin wound. If the hamster bites off the stitches, he will have a very big hole in his foreleg and it will become infected badly."

Today could be the last day of life for this hamster if he dies on the operating table. Though he was young, he was very fat. I was not keen on this type of high risk surgery as I needed a longer time to remove this massive tumour that extended over 3/4 of the length of his left hand. The last day of 2008 could be the last day of living for this gentle hamster. The lady apologised to me as she wiped tears off her eyes with a piece of tissue paper.  She had consulted Vet 1 around one month ago and did not go for the surgery option. "Vet 1 asked his assistant to handle the hamster," she said. "He did not look competent."

I am not surprised that a pet owner judges a vet's competence by his non-handling of the pet. There was a pet shop operator and groomer who assessed that I was afraid of dogs as I muzzle some of them prior to examination to prevent dog bites onto my fingers. How can I perform surgery with nasty septic and deep bite wounds from the fangs of pet dogs? They are extremely painful. But some lay people assess veterinary competency as if vets can just look into the eye of the four-legged patient and command their obedience and submission.      

Dwarf hamster, male, 6 months. Large foreleg tumour. Singapore. Toa Payoh VetsSometimes I do ask my assistant to take the hamster out. After all, what are assistants employed for if not to help out the veterinarian? In any case, they need the hands-on experience. 

My Myanmarese assistant Mr Saw would always put on a white glove to protect himself from being bitten before holding the hamster for me. This time I took out the hamster as I assessed this 6-month-old to be a gentle dwarf hamster and to save my assistant some worries. So the working couple must have given me their thumbs up for hamster competency. 

"Hamsters do give nasty nips to our hands," I said to the working couple. I did not mention that I do ask my Myanmarese vet assistant to take out the hamster sometimes. How are assistants going to learn if they don't touch any hamster and get bitten sometimes?

Vets are supposed to be brave-hearted. Only yesterday, my associate got bitten by a Jack Russell. A 10 cm bite wound with yellow iodine on his left forearm figured prominently. A one-year-old Shih Tzu just suddenly snapped at my fingers after I examined him for ticks.      

Removal of this massive tumour would be very painful. Therefore the hamster needed a sedation by injection into his backside muscle. The danger lies in this injection. It may kill the hamster and that would be the end. Exactly how much to give is a matter of experience rather than a matter of weight related dosage as in the dog and the cat. I gave this hamster a very small dose of Zoletil IM. After 2 minutes, he staggered and fell to his side. Within 60 seconds, he woke up and walked about upright.

Then I put him inside a small see-through anaesthetic container and gave him 5% isoflurane gas for less than 60 seconds. Hamsters don't show good signs of anaesthesia unlike dogs. So, it was a matter of observation. With Zoletil sedation, it would be too hard to see the eyelids closing. Therefore around 30 seconds of the gas would do. Top up with gas when the hamster felt the pain. The surgery and stitching lasted around 10 minutes. The hamster did not feel any pain as Zoletil was an effective analgesic.    

Dwarf hamster, male, 6 months. Large foreleg tumour. Singapore. Toa Payoh VetsAs this hamster was young, his skin was in good condition. I used the sharp pointed ophthalmic scissors to cut the tumour at the split skin edges. Then I undermine the skin and lifted out the fatty tumour. The skin was stretched by the big size and had ruptured at half way round the tumour. Bleeding was controlled bys pressure swabs. In this case, the tumour was shelled out. There was excess skin now. I trimmed off the extra skin and put in 5 stitches of 5/0 absorbable sutures.

The lady was concerned and asked whether I could use an Elizabeth collar. She was worried about the hamster biting off the stitches. I used a piece of paper to make an e-collar. The hamster appeared angry and used his hands to get the collar out. After 60 seconds, he pulled it off. I did not want to stress him further and present a dead pet after all the successful surgery and anaesthesia. His owners came soon. "How come he is so awake?" the lady expected a sleepy pet. "Hamsters given minimal sedation and gas anaesthesia recover very fast," I said. There was no need to give an antidote. For hamsters, the less injections the better.

Dwarf hamster, male, 6 months. Large foreleg tumour. Singapore. Toa Payoh Vets"How about antibiotics after surgery?" the lady asked. "Vet 1 had given two types but he hates the pinkish one." Well, I administered the pink syrup to the hamster via a syringe as I held the hamster's head. He struggled and really spitted it out. It must be a joyful New Year's eve for the working lady as she was the caregiver. She would stay at home for the next 3 days to ensure that the hamster did not bite off the stitches. But could she be awake for 24 hours?  Maybe the hamster would also sleep while she sleeps. If the hamster did not bite off the stitches, there would be good healing. As at 48 hours after surgery, the owner did not phone me. I presumed that she was doing a good watchdog job. 

Working couples with hamsters may need to have a career-home balance. In this case, the husband did not share the responsibilities in the care of this hamster.
The wife had not noticed the growth of the tumour till it was large. The grey-haired husband probably never looked at his wife's pet as he worked very long hours. Hamsters are family to the wife or female member of the family usually
and they can't sleep when the pets get tumours growing bigger and bigger.
Perhaps the husband or father may not be aware of this emotional aspect.


Dwarf hamster, male, 6 months. Large foreleg tumour. Singapore. Toa Payoh Vets


Examine your hamster every day and small tumours are much cheaper and safer to remove.

 In this case, the veterinary fees were sufficient to pay for the purchase of 18 new hamsters at $10.00 each.

A delay in seeking surgery for removal of a small tumour can lead to a lot of worries as the malignant tumour grows explosively.   

Hamster usually bites off stitches. Toa Payoh Vets Hamster usually bites off stitches. Toa Payoh Vets
On day 4 after surgery, the hamster had bitten its stitches. The wound was relatively clean. 
"He disliked the pink antibiotic syrup," the lady said on this sunny Sunday morning. "So I did not give him any."
"How about the anti-inflammatory syrup?" 
"No," the lady said. "You said it would delay wound healing."
"A small amount is necessary to relieve the itchiness of healing," I held the hamster's head with my left hand and gave him a small dose via the syringe. Then I gave him some antibiotics despite his squirming. The caregiver will clean his wounds twice a day and give medication for 7 days. There should be no problem of infection.

Bandaging the wound after removal of the tumour would be ideal but in the hamster, this was not practical. The hamster might struggle to remove the bandage and fracture his foreleg or be stressed out and not eat. Infections may appear under the bandage due to the lack of ventilation. For such reasons, I seldom bandage hamster's leg wounds after surgery. 

tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)Toa Payoh Vets Clinical Research
Making veterinary surgery alive
to a veterinary student studying in Australia
using real case studies and pictures

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All rights reserved. Revised: January 07, 2009
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