He was a
lightning ball of energy. You cannot hold him still for a
second. Ms White just loved him, his dynamism and his
speed. But he was now losing weight.
"Another vet had pierced an abscess below his left muzzle, gave
us some medication with vitamins and an
to wash the wound. Also, he told us to squeeze out more
pus regularly," Ms White said as she brought in a small one-and-
a-half year-old hamster.
"I just can't do it." Ms White explained that she could not do
the drainage of the pus from the abscess which had persisted for
the past two weeks.
"Can you just
cut the swelling and release the pus?" she asked. The
hamster was not having such a good appetite and had lost a lot
He screamed. It was more like shrieking in a high pitched voice
when I checked out the inflamed swollen lump on the left muzzle.
The scream transmitted to Ms White who felt the pain as much as
her beloved hamster.
"If you don't lance the abscess to release the pus, he will die
spreading to the whole body," said Ms White worriedly. "The poor
thing now cannot hold the melon seed to his mouth to open it
nowadays. Lancing the abscess will alleviate its pain"
"It's a hard
lump," I said after a few more palpations and objections from
the little creature. "There will be no pus if it is cut. Worse
of all, the hamster will have a bigger hole which will become
it is near the mouth area" The hamster was very irritated by the
lump and had been scratching it till a large area of the skin
was reddened and had lost some hair.
This is a big survival problem for the hamster. It might die of
septicaemia, due to the widespread bacterial and toxin poisoning
in its blood stream.
Or it might die due to anorexia, a complete loss of appetite as
its diet becomes restricted to bread and soft food and it will
not want to eat anymore due to pain.
However, the swelling and infected tissues had expanded
and there was a possibility of infection developing. This
swelling could be a soft tissue tumour too as the hamster
is considered over middle age in human equivalent terms.
Hamsters generally live for 2 to 3 years in Singapore.
"There would be no pus after incision of the selling, as
the "abscess" had not ripened fully," I elaborated. "The
lancing of the abscess might cause the hamster to stop
eating as this is a sensitive area."
"The first vet had pricked a small pimple and a small drop
of pus had come out, but now the bigger inflamed area had
not developed into the soft abscess yet." I explained.
"If the area is cut, it will be very painful even if it is
a small cut. This is because the hamster is so small in
size. It may not eat and will die of hunger after
Many times, the vet will be blamed for its death a day or
two after surgery. The vet "killed" the hamster.
What should I do now? What would be in the best interest
of the hamster?
Medication in a paste was given for the next 7 days.
If the swelling developed into a soft abscess, it will be
lanced. If the red lump shrinks, no surgery will be
Ms White must ensure that the medication be given for the
next 7 days. It would not be easy for her to do so as she
had not handled animals from childhood. Most of
Singapore's X-file generation just do not have the
hands-on experience of pets during the growing up days.
abscesses can be lanced immediately. Some may ripen after
two weeks. Many hamsters in Singapore suffer from
The causes must be identified to prevent occurrences. Some
causes are due to fighting. Others are due to sharp
objects piercing the skin of the hamster and in this case,
it could be one of the sharp edges of a melon seed.
One week later, the hamster had a purplish lump with small
holes, indicating some infection had gone in. I put
it under gas anaesthesia to check it out. It will be
risky, the owners were warned. The hard tissue lump
had increased in size. The two lower teeth had
overgrown in length, indicating that the hamster was not
eating its melon seeds to wear down the teeth.
As it was sleepy, the lower teeth was clipped short.
In this way it could eat. Medication was fed using
honey. But the hamster developed "wet tail" or diarrhoea
and the medication was stopped. The lump did not
soften but increased further in size extending to a curved
tip below its margin.
The hamster lost weight but it could eat melon seeds.
It was very irritated with this extraneous tissue. "Could
you cut it off?" Ms White asked again. If only this was so
easy. A month passed. It was not improving and
had shrunk to half its size. Would it be kinder to
let go and relieve it of misery and pain by euthanasia?
That would be up to Ms White to decide.