The internet introduced me to two active sibling female grey dwarf hamsters on Thursday, July 21, 2011. They were no ordinary 2-year-old greyish dwarf hamsters in the sense that both gave angry squeaks whenever I tried to handle them. They would sprint away as fast as their legs would carry them. If cornered, they would stare at me ready to nip me if my finger ever touched them.
Hamster 1. Female. 28g. Her right ear was swollen and oily. As I got near her, she emitted a strong smell of rotten meat in the consultation. Body odour? Not from hamsters. Especially dwarfs as they groom themselves frequently.
"Is it your dirty glove?" I asked my assistant Mr Min. He wore a soiled cotton glove to handle the hamster to protect himself against being bitten. I had strongly advised him to change gloves when they get dirtied but he is the type that needed frequent reminders and wearing down my patience.
"No, no," the slim lady owner in black-rimmed glasses said. "She has this foul smell. My vet gave her this Panalog ear ointment to apply. But there is still the smell. Pieces of white pus comes out from the ear!"
Recently I had a hamster with a similar smell due to it being bitten. Smell of putrefying flesh. "Was this hamster bitten by the sibling?" I asked. "Well, yes," the lady said. "The sibling who is more aggressive bit her.
"Did your vet give any antibiotics?" I asked.
"No," she said. "Just the ear ointment."
This looked like a complex case. "I will have to put her under anaesthesia and check the ear," I said. "Normally, there should be no anaesthetic risk as she is very active and eating. I may have to irrigate the ear with hydrogen peroxide to get rid of the smelly bacteria and tissues."
As simple as that. Irrigate the ear under anaesthesia. What is so difficult when the hamster is not trying to bite you? Well, it was not to be. The ear was swollen with nodules piling one upon the other. Big growths. There was no time to phone the lady for permission as the hamster can't take long anaesthesia without dying off. Less than 10 minutes would be OK. I cut off the whole vertical canal with its tumours. I saw the parotid salivary gland - a small yellow white. Surgery in illustration. The hamster survived and went home the same night.
As for Hamster 2, the left leg had a big lump. "It was just a pimple, last month. I asked my vet. I was told to wait and see. Now the vet says the leg must be amputated.
It was a big bony hard tumour like a coin involving the bone from below the knee. Anaesthesia was Zoletil 50. 1 drop 1M given. The hamster was not sedated. So I phoned the owner to say I would do the next day. 3 drops IM. The hamster went down and looked quite dead. There was slow breathing. I got the tumour out. Leg had to be amputated above the knee. Stitched 5/0 nylon. Very weak. May die post-op. Tried to exercise with 3 legs still. What a strong hamster. Weighed her. Now 19 gram. And she was 30 grams befoe he surgery 2 days ago. "She drinks more, and is more aggressive," the young lady said to me. Well, 2 hamsters alive. That is what matters. The bony tumour must weigh 10 grams.