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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28457
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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I have a hamster that could be between 18 months and 2 years

Customer Question

I have a hamster that could be between 18 months and 2 years old. We got her from Petco, she fell suddenly ill, so we took her to the vet who indicated that was her age range. Petco indicated that she may have been a breeding hamster mistakenly included in the shipment. I contacted Petco corporate and they did reimburse me for the vet bill which was $ 375.

Recently, she has developed a very swollen stomach and sleeps a lot. The vet has put her on Baytril and did an ultrasound. The xray showed what could be pyometra.

She is still alert and perky, although she cannot move a lot due to the swelling which is in the lower region of her stomach. She eats but I feel she will go. Is it advisable to operate on this little girl in light of her age as the anesthesia might be lethal. I do not know what to do because she is still alert and as perky as she can be under the circumstances.

We adore this hamster, her name isXXXXX and I harbor the hope that she would live until 3.

The doctor did attempt to aspirate her in the event she was filled with urine to no avail.

Any suggestions?

Thanks so much
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
I'm sorry to hear of this with Fat Amy. While pyometra has been observed clinically in pet hamsters, it's quite rare in pet hamsters. We need to also consider lymphoma because it's the most common neoplasm in hamsters and one of the three variations of lymphoma often arises in the mesentery often with palpable masses in their abdomens.

Fat Amy's life expectancy is 18-36 months. It's reasonable to assume that Fat Amy can't survive much longer with such a clinical presentation, thus I'm inclined to recommend surgical exploration which could give her another 12-18 months. There's considerable risk for general anesthesia but an inhalation anesthetic (only) should be considered because it shouldn't effect major organs - only anesthetize her brain.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The mass is not palpable and her stomach is hard. She is having difficulty defecating. Fat Amy is a black bear hamster. Does that make a difference in her life expectancy? Isn't lymphoma a mass on the body meaning she has a severely swollen stomach. The xray showed one internal mass, what could be gallstones and fluid. Why didn't my vet recommend the inhalation anesthetic and is it common to use this on a hamster. Sorry for all the questions but this is a big decision.


Lastly, what is the cost of such surgery, just a range?

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 years ago.
Thank you. Any mass - a greatly enlarged uterus or a tumor such as lymphoma - that impinges on her colon will make it more difficult for Fat Amy to defecate. Her swollen stomach is due mainly to fluid that has accumulated secondary to the inflammation caused by that mass - not the mass itself.

Black Bear hamsters have the same life expectancy as other hamsters.

Lymphoma is a cancer involving lymphocytes - one of the white blood cells. It's called Hodgkins or non-Hodgkins disease in people. Lymphoma may appear as a leukemia - malignant cells flowing through the bloodstream - or as a solid tumor. I would be quite circumspect about differentiating one mass from another by ultrasounding a hamster. We really would need to explore such a tiny pet as she.

I can't know why your vet didn't mention inhalation anesthesia. It's the only anesthesia I use for my rodents. I can monitor the level of anesthesia nicely unlike an anesthetic agent that is injected and then can't be removed from my patient.

Some vets have special "rodent rates" - much discounted - for surgical procedures. They might charge a flat rate of $150. Other vets may charge as they do for dogs and cats and that can approximate $10/minute. Be sure to ask for a written estimate before anything is done. Please continue our conversation if you wish.