The 2-year-old female hamster with the stinking right ear still had infection, this time, at another place. The lady owner had red eyes as I explained to her that the risks are higher everytime her dwarf hamster undergoes anaesthesia and surgery. I guessed she delayed as long as possible and now the hamster kept scratching her right ear tip. I noted that the tip was blackened. So, she came to me.
I gave isoflurane gas. Cut a big vertical cut and dug out all the yellowish granules of pus deep inside. I irrigated the holes as big as 1.5 cm and that is big if you are a hamster. The rotting smell (like bad breath) came back slightly. Now, the incision extended into the right cheek and into mouth.
The hamster was still alive 4 days after surgery when I phoned her.
"Not eating much," the owner said. "One melon seed and soft food."
"This is a tough cookie. She survived 4 anaesthesia though she is quite old. It must be very painful to eat. Can you weigh her? She had lost 3 g during surgery" I asked.
She had no appropriate small weighing machine. "You can count the number of faecal pellets," I said.
"My hamster is now having soft stools. Shall I stop the vegetables?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. "Otherwise we will get a serious 'wet tail' problem"
What to advise now?
"Feed her by syringe, a drop at a time," I advised. "10 times a day. For example, mash up the pellet and feed her. Give her water by syringe as she does not drink much. This will prevent dehydration. Hand feeding is very important for recovery. I had a case of a gentleman who nursed his severely dehydrated hamster back to health through feeding many times a day. I didn't expect him (as a man) to have the patience to do it but he proved me wrong."
I hope this hamster survives. As to what causes this evil smelling infection, it is hard to say since no bacterial culture has been done. The lower the vet cost, the better for the owner. There seemed to be a deep infection. It could be the inner ear but since hamsters are so small, no X-ray is practical unlike in dogs. The infection could be from the mouth to the Eustachian tube to the inner ear. Hard to verify. This is one of those unusual cases where the lady owner did not give up caring for a dwarf hamster. A new dwarf hamster costs around $15.00 if one is calculating and this is the way the older generation thinks.