Gruff is a two year old male Syrian hamster. He presented to our Leith Walk surgery after his owner’s had noticed two very unusual swellings either side of his wind pipe. Gruff was otherwise well but these swellings were growing very rapidly. The decision was made to put him under a general anaesthetic, surgically remove the masses and send them to the pathology lab in order to find out what these masses were.
Such operations are very tricky in hamsters for various reasons, mainly relating to their tiny size. Hamsters are very small animals and therefore a very delicate dissection process is required to remove masses such as these, as they were located very close to some important vessels. Hamsters also lose heat very rapidly, so their body temperature has to be carefully managed whist they are asleep.
Fortunately, Gruff came through his anaesthetic, the operation was a success, and he went home none the wiser. His biopsy results unfortunately were not too good. The pathologist reported a cancer called lymphoma, which is malignant, and which tends to spread to other organs in the body. These tumours can be caused by a virus in young hamsters called hamster polyoma virus, however they can also occur sporadically in older hamsters which is more likely in Gruff’s case.