Asiahomes Internet
02 Feb 2003
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Asiahomes Internet educational stories for pet lovers, sponsored by  AsiaHomes Internet  

The hamster bleeds from the mouth 

Her left eyelids were glued together by a sticky yellowish mass and a big cheek lump on the left face tilted her head towards the left as she stumbled with the heavy load. She was 12 months old and that would be past middle-aged for this Golden hamster as the average life span is 18 - 24 months. 

Singapore Golden hamster with large cheek pouch on left side"I saw blood coming out of her mouth," Mrs Chan said as she placed the hamster onto the examination table. "What is the problem with her?"

"It is most likely an abscess," I said as I touched the swelling. Yet it was a hard fibrous lump. I did not want to stress the hamster by handling her as she looked as if she was going to die any time.  Lethargic, not eating for a few days. This was not the ideal patient for surgery. Yet she needed surgical removal of the lump which looked more like a tumour than an abscess. If it was an abscess, incising the swelling would release the pus and the hamster would be able to eat. But this was a tumour impacted with feed accumulated by the hamster over the past few days. There was yellowish pus in some soft areas. 

In short, this was an infected and impacted cheek pouch tumour in a weak hamster which would be dying of sepsis and infection in the next 2 days.  

If no operation was done, the hamster would die as she could not eat properly even though she might be given antibiotics to eliminate the bacterial infections in the pouch and blood. 

If surgery was done, she would need to be anaesthesized and she might die on the operating table.

Some owners would not be happy to pay sixty dollars to receive a dead pet at the end of the procedure. Sixty dollars could buy three or four young hamsters if the owner was pragmatic and calculating and I would not know the reaction of Mrs Chan who was a first-time client. 

Singapore Golden hamster with large cheek pouch on left side - inside of cheek pouch seen"You know that there is a risk of your hamster dying if I operate as she is very weak and her heart might fail under anaesthesia or the next 24 hours?" I asked Mrs Chan. Informed consent is nowadays a necessary procedure.  Usually there would be a form to acknowledge awareness of this risk. 

"Is there another choice?" Mrs Chan asked. There was no other method of treatment as this mass was hard and was likely a tumour. 

Mrs Chan decided on the surgery. I put the hamster under gas anaesthesia, just sufficiently deep to operate without her feeling the pain. Of course, there was no monitoring equipment like pulse meter, heart rate meter, breathing meters and all sorts of supporting equipment as in human anaesthesia. 

Singapore Golden hamster with large cheek pouch on left side - large tumour-like massIn hamsters, the shorter the anaesthesia and the faster the surgery, the chances of survival post-operation are very good. The tumour could be seen from inside the mouth once the hamster was under anaesthesia. I use the scalpel to incise the left cheek slowly. There was the membrane of the cheek pouch. Slowly, the scissors were used to spread open the skin from the membrane of the cheek pouch. The ball of tumour was then removed.   

The hamster gripped the scissors as the anesthetic wore off. She was put back into the anaesthetic chamber for a short time as the gaping wound in the cheek needed to be stitched up to promote healing.

So far, so good. It was observation on the hamster's reaction to stitching to tell how long the hamster would remain anaesthesized. The hamster objected weakly to the fine needle entering her skin from one side of the wound to the other side. That would be just sufficient anaesthesia. 

Singapore Golden hamster with large cheek pouch on left side - stitched up skinFine hair-like stitches would be placed to close up the wound. Stitches that would dissolve by themselves after 14 days when the wound edges would have healed. Would the hamster survive the anaesthesia? She woke up fast but was groggy as she staggered on the operating table after the last of the four stitches weSingapore Golden hamster with large cheek pouch on left side - 3 min after gas anaesthesia and stitchingre tied. 

The next 24 hours would be important. Mrs Chan had to keep the ham
ster in a quiet warm place and let her sleep. It was daytime and hamsters, being nocturnal animals, should be sleeping. I hope she would lead a normal life and that the tumour would not recur. Singapore's hamster owners seldom re-visit the veterinarian to review the condition and therefore the fate of this hamster would usually not be known.   

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Revised: February 02, 2003  · Asiahomes Internet


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