|The hamster saves for a rainy day
"My one-month hamster is not walking properly, as if he is in pain or lame,"
said Miss Chan, a slim and fair girl.
Like almost all teenagers, she was as careful of her weight and was fashionable, wearing a
white blouse exposing the belly button, the fashion of the year 2000.
She took out a small shoe box full of shredded newspapers from a large paper shopping
bag. A baby hamster emerged.
"There is a big lump below its neck," her mother
said. She was short haired and
wore blouse and snacks. A lady in her late 40s, dressed as conservative
in contrast to her daughter trendy fashionable clothing.
The baby hamster had stuffed seeds in its left pouch which swelled to large 1 cm irregular
mass on the left cheek.
"Is it still eating?" I asked. A piece of normal faeces was
passed as the answer came from the hamster. Hamsters poop almost every few
seconds if they are normal.
This hamster certainly looked and behaved normally.
"She has an excellent appetite but she staggers, as if she is drunk," commented
"The mass would be the seeds stored in the pouch," I said.
"Do you have an injection to get the seeds out? They seem to cause a difficulty in
walking, as if she was carrying a heavy baggage," Mrs Chan was worried.
It may be best to leave the baby hamster alone and stop offering food to her for a
short time. But will this guarantee that the hamster will empty its pouch?
What if the pouch was badly infected and therefore the
food got stuck inside?
But which owner would want to do that? The hamster might starve to death.
What if the hamster got choked since the mass was so big relative to the size of the hamster?
Would I be negligent in not dealing with the "choke"?
This wasn't a real choke, well known in cattle cases in Scotland in the 1970s.
|In some cows in Scotland, a very big potato swallowed blocked
the gullet, I remembered my seeing practice days.
In this baby hamster, the gullet was not obstructed but this mass could block food going
down the gullet from pressure to constrict the oesophagus.
"No such injection is available. Anyway, it is too risky to inject such a young
may be possible to massage the lump out."
Was this a very hungry baby hamster? Certainly,
it would not be short of food from her caring owners.
The eyeballs popped out as I tried to massage the seeds out of the mouth.
3 big seeds of about 0.4 cm long were extruded. Some broken down masticated greenish black
food material oozed out.
The blackish stuff could be the ink as she had licked and ingested the newspapers
as her bedding was the Singapore Straits Times.
The hamster suddenly lapsed into a comatose-like state. She stopped struggling.
Her front paws were motionless. I sweated. The mother
and daughter looked at me.
"Is she dead?" asked the mother.
"Wait a while, Mrs Chan," I said. There was no way in
knowing as the hamster is too small to auscultate with
the ordinary stethoscope.
Tears welled up in the eyes of her
daughter. The baby was only one month old and life had just begun.
The whole process of manipulating the seeds
and crumbs out of the cheek pouch might have stimulated the
nerves next to the big lump. The nerves then send impulses to slow down of the heart
and the hamster collapsed.
After what seemed like an eternity but was probably over
30 seconds, the baby hamster got up as if she has woken up from a nightmare. She was wobbly but
was all right.
"No more big seeds for this baby,"
I said. "She could be just putting
everything in her pouch, as all one-year old (human) toddlers would put all things in
their mouth. Most likely the baby hamster was saving for a rainy day!"
RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW OF
THIS CASE IN 2008
Hamsters are easily stressed if restrained for
several seconds. They may then die of heart failure as the
vagal nerves get overstretched, leading to slowing the heart
rate and then heart failure.
In a retrospective review of this case, a whiff of the
isoflurane anaesthetic gas for around 30 seconds would have
not stressed this baby hamster. When the hamster is sleepy
breathing the gas, the stuffed food in the cheek pouch can be
taken out without much
resistance using a pair of forceps.
However, the trick of the trade is to use a correct
anaesthetic dose. The hamster may die from
breathing a slight overdose. The vet needs to be vigilant.
Once the hamster closes its eye-lids, take it out of the
anaesthetic chamber and treat it.
From the experience of the above case, severely impacted cheek
hamsters treated in Toa Payoh Vets are given anaesthetic gas
to avoid stress and excessive stimulation of the vagal
nerves as the hamster struggles while the vet dislodges its
cheek pouch contents.