Laughter is not the best medicine in the Roborovski hamster anaesthesia
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
18 October, 2011
Be Kind To Pets
The young woman said to me when I answered the phone: "I have decided to have the lump taken out by Dr Julia. Last week, he had been given antibiotics but the lump is still present."
"When can you bring the Roborovski hamster to the Surgery?" I asked.
"After work. It will be after 8 pm."
I was still working at this time and so I decided to operate together with Dr Julia and my assistant Min.
The instruments were prepared. "Put the hamster into the container and count 1 to 5," I said to Min as he inserted the endotracheal tube into the container. Min is not used to count loudly as this counting aloud is not part of his culture. "Start counting," I have had told Min that he has to do as instructed as this is part of the procedure for anaesthesia of dwarf hamsters. Otherwise, he may as well be his own boss.
"Accept instructions from your boss when you are an employee rather than do your own thing. When you become the boss of your practice, you expect your employees to follow your instructions. Otherwise, how can you trust your employee when you are not around? "
It takes time and patience to change the mindset of the average younger employee as they have their own ideas of doing things "better". This is the culture of the young ones and I accept this is the new world.
Now Min said aloud solemnly in his gruffly voice: "One... two...three..."
Dr Julia burst out laughing and so he stopped.
I said: "5 seconds of the 5% isoflurane anaesthesia is enough. Take the hamster out of the container to operate. If the hamster moves, repeat for another 5 seconds. The Roborovski is a very small hamster compared to the average dwarf hamster and so you have to be very careful. It is very hard to see whether he is sleepy or not as he is an active speedy fellow."
There was no problem. Dr Teo extracted one big fatty tumour. I said: "Stitch up with the 6/0 absorbable suture now!" It was a big tumour of 0.5mm x 0.5mm x 0.3mm. The surgery must be quickly completed as repeated gas anaesthesia will kill this hamster.
But it was not complete. Min said in his muffled voice: "There is one more lump,"
I was surprised as the fatty tumour had a twin. This was taken out and the skin quickly stitched with four interrupted sutures. The hamster woke up and walked like a drunk. I quickly had him put into the cage, just in case he rocketed off the operating table and fell on the floor. Roborovski hamsters don't walk. They sprint. This was a two-year old, much beloved by the young couple. Still, the vet must be alert as old does not mean less speedy as in an old man compared to a young one.
Anaesthesia in Roborovski hamsters needs to be very careful. The easy part is the surgery if the tumour can be shelled out as in this case. The couple came back at 9 pm and took the hamster home. This was a happy ending. Laughter is the best medicine but in hamster anaesthesia, I discourage any jokes or chatter as there is a great need to focus on anaesthesia.
4638 - 4643. Anaesthesia of the Roborovski hamster at Toa Payoh Vets
Every hamster that survives the surgery builds up the reputation of
Toa Payoh Vets as the place to go for hamster surgeries. Unlike the Singapore hospitals where you have a specialist anaesthetist and a specialist surgeon, the vet is both and many deaths on the operating table are due to a lack of focus by the assistant. So idle chatter and jokes are out if the vet and his assistant is doing anaesthesia and surgery and serious about getting excellent surgical outcomes.
No point having a perfect surgery done when the patient has had died on the operating table. The only outcome the hamster or any pet owner wants is a pet alive and going home, not a dead one. So I have been very careful about anaesthesia in my 30 years of practice.