Thursday, September 9, 2010

192. Collect urine from a dwarf hamster?

I could see the look in her eyes. Eyes are windows to the soul and these eyes flashed a message. I don't claim to possess telepathy but these eyes texted "Is your mind going to pot? You ask me to do a mission impossible."

I have had done several hamster tumour removals and treatment, thanks to the internet group of hamster lovers. But to collect urine from a hamster for urinalysis? I have not personally done it. Now I challenge and command Dr Vanessa Lin to get it done.

How to do it? Think. As a mentor, I must be able to do it. Vanessa's silence was golden. I offered advices like:

"Put the hamster in a cage with a grated flooring. Put a plastic sheet below the grate. The hamster's urine will pee down onto the plastic sheet. Tilt the cage slightly so that the urine will flow downwards to one end. Then, you can collect the urine and put in a container to be sent to the lab for urinalysis. It should be a small cage."

Theory is great. Can this be done? Where do we find such a small cage? When will the hamster pee? How much pee can be collected. If the hamster pees 0.2 ml, the heat of the environment will just evaporate the pee.

I believe that many vet schools do not teach the students how to do it. So many animals to teach. Hamsters are low on the teaching totem pole.

The ability to perform is important for any new vet in private practice. Vanessa told me that the top graduate in her class was fired for non-performance. Impressive academic credentials don't mean a thing in the real world where a veterinary practice's profitability must be sustainable.

Collecting urine from a dwarf hamster? I must be joking. But this is a serious matter as the hamster owner had consulted a vet who had produced an excellent X-ray and from my examination of the real hamster (after telling her that a phone call diagnosis would not be possible), I knew I needed at least one urine test. To check for urine protein and the possibility of kidney disorders. "Blood tests are impossible in a live dwarf hamster unlike in dogs and cats," I said to the owner. "A urine test can be done."

So the owner left the hamster at the Surgery. And now, I asked Vanessa to get it done. Veterinary medicine throws up many situations and challenges. If Vanessa could not be successful in this task, could I show her how to do it? I asked her to do it. This was to make her think how to do it. Well, there was not much time. The owner would be back in 30 minutes as she was reluctant to leave the hamster in the Surgery in the first place. She had specifically made an appointment to see me through the Surgery phone but I was not given the message. I apologised to inconveniencing her for a second visit and asked why she did not phone me personally as she had done when she wanted a telephone diagnosis.

How to collect urine from a dwarf hamster? Read widely and take a leaf from practices from other animal species. Metabolism tests on sheep. What do they do at the science lab which conducted drug trials and which I have never visited.

20 minutes left before the expected arrival of the lady hamster owner. I had a brainwave. The urine was collected and shown to the owner. She was satisfied that she did not waste her time to seek a second opinion.

I have the pictures of the urine collection process for readers and veterinary undergraduates who may be tested during their fourth and fifth-year vivas (oral tests).

Details are at:

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