"She has lost 8 grams in weight," the slim young lady said as she presented the dwarf hamster now weighing 86 grams. A normal weight will be around 45 grams.
4 weeks ago, I treated this hamster with anti-inflammatory injection and oral follow up. Her lower groin was inflamed and had become hairless, both backsides were balding and she had red itchy elbows and hock joints (see image taken today, post later).
Today, Oct 3, 2011, some hairs had grown back on the groin area which was pink but the owner could not recall. "It was red and hairless," I said. "I did not take pictures at that time."
"What is the cause of itchy elbows and hocks, all 4 red and the hamster keeps biting the skin of the 4 joints?"
"It is likely an allergy to the environment or food," I said. "You had removed the original bedding and replacing with tissue paper. But your food remains the same."
The lady showed me the hamster's food in a small plastic bag. "There is a small bone which is not normally given to hamsters," I said. "Does it contain milk? Could this be the cause of the allergy?"
"This bone is for the hamster to wear her teeth and get calcium," she said. "It is meant for the dog." It was an attractive small bone-shaped piece probably made for a hamster to gnaw and enjoy life.
Oats, grains, flaxseed and broccoli have been fed to this overweight hamster, but no more sunflower seeds now. "I give her less sunflower seeds and that is why she has lost weight."
I suggested removing the bone and giving another type of feed that excludes grains. "What will the hamster eat if she has no grains and the bone? She can't be eating vegetables as she will get diarrhoea."
"One sunflower seed, some fresh melon seeds, apple seeds, apples, broccoli and oats," I said.
"I must buy water melons everyday to give her the seeds?" she asked. "She will grow fat if she eats sunflower seeds!"
"There needs to be a change of diet for a month to eliminate cause of allergy," I said. "Otherwise, the steroids will not work forever. You have stopped the oral steroids for the past 2 weeks and the itchy joints come back again."
"The last time you gave an injection into the skin on the back, my hamster had bruises," the young lady gave me a feedback. Her lady friend stood outside the Surgery as she was allergic inside.
"I need to give an injection today to reduce quickly the itchiness," I said. "Normally I don't give injections to hamsters but oral medication. Some hamsters feel the pain of injection."
I took some images to document the case. Four itchy joints remind me of a baby boy of less than one year old. He scratched his elbows many times leading to an elbow eczema. Whenever he was free and babies are always free as you don't expect them to do things, he would use his fingers and scratch his elbows. The elbows became red. I can't recall whether he also scratched his ankle or not. The ankle is equivalent to this dwarf hamster's hock. But I remembered the doctor as saying that I should buy baby hand gloves so that the baby can't scratch his elbows with his fingers! I had to switch from cow's milk to soya bean milk.
Well, the baby stopped scratching after switching to soya bean milk. That was in 1986 and this baby is now 25 years old and has no joint skin itchiness. I guess he can't drink cow's milk.
This dwarf hamster appears to have a similar problem as she keeps licking her elbows and hock joints inflaming and swelling the skin.
We will wait and see the next 4 weeks after elimination of the dog's "bone" and diet changes.
I had another similar case of joint skin inflammation in a dwarf hamster some years ago. The young lady did not return after oral anti-inflammatory and I did not follow up. I presumed no news is good news. Will check for and post this image later.
P.S Oct 4 8.30pm spoke to mother of the 25-yo boy
1. did the baby suffer from rashes at the ankles>
"No, some scars behind his knees. he seldom scratched there as he was busy scratching his elbow area with his sharp nails. i had to clip his nails short
2. did he wear gloves/mittens
"yes, he tried to pull them off. finally i discovered he was allergic to cow's milk and switched him to soya bean milk
3. how long it took him to recover?
4. when he got itchy elbows?
"can't remember. I breast fed him at the beginning. then onto cow's milk. he develop rashes on both elbows and would just scratch and scratch.
5. did he have itchy ankles? how u can remember only elbows and knees affected?
"ankles not affected. i remember because i carried him. He is lactose intolerant now as a young man."
Mothers know best and have the best memories and most worries. seldom do mothers record onset, duration and recovery. Mothers are not doctors!
Actually it was the pediatrician who advised change to soya bean milk. In the old days, this new mum was recommended Nans' brand of cow's milk. I wonder what brand in 2011?
Pictures and updates of this hamster will be posted later at: