"Can you remember you did house-calls to a house in Ewart Park 30 years ago?" the mother brought in a 2-year-old hamster with a wart and 2 yellow upper eyelid abscesses asked me.
"I do remember Ewart Park," I said. "It is one of those secluded exclusive quiet leafy housing residential areas. You were a baby then" I could not recognise this mother of two teenaged daughters. "I wasn't a baby," she laughed.
I was joking with her. She was a teenaged girl when I did the house-calls. At that time, I was 29 years old.
But I remembered a Pekinese with maggot wound in the nose area and happy children running up and down a terraced patio, if my long-term memory served me right. I had never been to Ewart Park since. This was such a long time ago and now this teenaged child is a mother of teenagers.
Her hamster looked thin and was a bit dehydrated when the hamster skin remained upright when pulled. But this hamster was very well cared for and was still active. He wanted to exercise but just could not reach the wheel. He would just fall off. It was not a laughing matter and the mother lowered the wheel for him.
How to excise the wart completely? Freezing or just use scissors to cut it off at the stalk? I wanted to use electrosurgery to cut and kill off any surrounding wart viruses and stop bleeding. Cutting off usually leads to bleeding, so electro-surgery which coagulates and cuts is useful in this case.
But would this old hamster be able to stand to electro-surgery and not die of a heart attack during the procedure? I asked my intern Tanya to stand by with the camera and take a picture as I electro-incise the wart. "It will be less than a second," I said. "Be ready snap the picture as I cut." Well, Tanya managed a second too late and got a picture of the wart after cutting. Better than nothing.
As for the upper eyelid, I would not use electro-surgery as the area is too near to the eye. I used small scissors to snip off the abscess. There was a gap in the right upper eyelid of 1 mm x 2 mm but the wound healed well the next day.
"Why do you board the hamster at the pet shop?" I asked the mother who was glad to meet up with me after 30 years. "Did he get the wart after boarding?" The domestic worker was frightened of the hamster and so he was boarded when she was overseas. She did not know when the wart appeared but judging from the long finger nails of the left fore paw, it could be a few weeks.
The second day, she visited with a new packet of Japanese-made hamster food and paper litter. This hamster was on a flooring of big solid pellets which I consider sharp and rough for this paws. But these big pellets were absorbent and not so smelly.
Warts do occur in older hamsters. As to why, I don't know. It is best to get them excised when they are small. Warts don't disappear with oral medication.
However, not all Singapore vets will do it for pet owners. Instead, some may give you medicine for the hamster.
Hamster warts grow bigger daily. They never disappear and the hamster may try to bite them off if they are present in the paws. The hamster is irritated and stressed by their growth and infection. As to why some vets merely prescribe oral medication when presented with hamster warts, I just cannot understand the rationale. Each vet has his or her approach to treatment in a case but all vets should be careful about the legal consequences of straying from the standard treatment of warts.
More pictures are at "Hamsters", www.toapayohvets.com