Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Rodent Amputees

You won't believe what I did at work today. A former vet co-worker called me and said, "You're just the person I need. We got 2 hamsters for Christmas and one broke its leg today. I knew I had to call you!" The cat knocked the cage over, and the hamster was happily trailing her broken leg behind her, all through the habitrail.

Those little buggers have some delicate appendages! We took an Xray and saw a pretty clean fracture through the tibia (shin bone). Under general anesthesia, I tried to place a pin into the bone, from the knee down. This is a standard way to fix a tibial fracture in any animal, but this one was microscopic. Instead of an actual steel pin, I used a small needle. I've used this needle technique successfully in a squirrel once, and eventually he was released to the wild.

The hamster's tibia was too small; once I got the needle in it just popped out the other side. Oh well, it was worth a try. Since we know all too well that hamsters without limbs do really well, I removed the limb at the knee and sewed the skin over it. She recovered uneventfully.

Long time readers know about Vino, our personal 2.5 legged hamster who has survived amputation, twice and still runs like the Dickens on his wheel. Fortunately, Vino hasn't lost any body parts in over a year! I also cut a leg off a ghinea pig with an infected open fracture. She went on to have a few happy months in a new home until a dog got a hold of her, ending her sad short life. These fractures must happen a lot to others, too, because I get a lot of hits from people searching about their rodent's leg trauma, and Angie's had 2 such experiences with her gerbils. At least when they have limb trauma I can control their pain and fix them. Too often rodents come in with cancer, and I am usually powerless against that.


Emily said...

Yea for Vino and his 2.5 legs! Glad the little bugger hasn't lost anything else in a year. Guess you're getting to be an expert of sorts on rodent amputees, huh?

EdamameMommy said...

What about a rodent cadeavor bone graft? Hmmm? Thought of that Dr. Dolittlerodentsurgeres?

Hey any chance you'll have a large animal story ever? You know, like a little retrospective on sticking your entire arm into a horse or birthing lambs while doing your externship in the UK? Rodents sure do get their fair share of blogtime around here.

-your least rodent loving fan (well, our mom excluded)

Leah said...

I was so excited to watch you work on the little hamster today. I was really hoping the pin would have worked too. I didn't know that the ghinea pig was killed by a dog. How sad. Like you said at least it had a few happy months.

scribbit said...

Okay, I've mentioned I'm not really into animals--allergies and such--but I HATE seeing things suffer. Any living creature. "Take that spider outside, don't you dare smash him!"

We had a hamster who lived for years (and I hear their shelf life isn't more than two) and one night he was acting really funny and then starting dragging his two back legs, like he'd had a little hamster stroke or something, and I nearly cried he was so sad.

A couple hours later he died. I was glad he wasn't suffering anymore, it was just too sad.

So am I horrible for not liking animals that much? Or am I psycho for getting so worked up over a hamster? Who knows, but my husband laughs at me.

chickenflicken said...

Gerbil amputees!! That's as good as the liver protectant, I will be able to walk around saying 'gerbil amputee' and shaking my head at the mind-bogglingness of it all. (There is a saying, that simple things amuse simple people...I hope that doesn't mean I'm stupid. Hahahaa!)

We have a guinea pig and he is terrified of us. He will talk to us, though, when we talk to him, and he loves talking to my son the most. He's so cute, I hope he never loses a limb. Guinea pig amputee doesn't have quite the ring to it that gerbil amputee does.

angie said...

Becoming an expert in rodent amputations is not something I ever aspired to! To my utter amazement, my daughter's three-legged gerbil is still going strong over a year after "the incident."

claire said...

hi there
i have a chinese hamster with a broken leg. have taken it to the vet and he has said there is nothing he can do but let it heal on its own, he has also given me some antibiotics to stop it getting infected. i just want to know if there is anything i can do to help it. can't bear to thing of the little mite in pain or worse to die! please help
love claire and brussells

Jennifer said...


If the fracture is open or compound (bone sticking out of the skin) the best course is amputation. Actually, if the fracture under a lot of motion it won't heal on its own, so amputation may be the best course. You may want to seek another opinion in your area. Hopefully there are more vets who see "pocket pets" in your area? Best of luck to you and Brussells (cute name!)

claire said...

thanks for the fast reply. the bone hasnt come out of the leg, have got the antibiotics in case he was bitten i have a pair of hamsters and the break happened because they were fighting, it woke me up at 5am! forgot to mention that before. he seems to be putting a little more weight on it as the days go by but he isnt moving around a lot at all. have put him into a smaller cage on his own so that he can't run around. he stays in his little house most of the time only coming out to drink water. only time he moves around a lot is when he is running away from me giving him his medicatioin, he hates it!! any tips on this would be great! haveto give it him in his mouth through a tiny little syringe!
anyway thats all for now and thanks again

Jennifer said...

Claire, yes, some hamsters become very territorial in adulthood. Sounds like you will need to get a permanent new residence for Mr Brussels so he doesn't get beaten up again.

You mention he is drinking, and I hope he is eating. Try offering him some cooked egg (esp. the yolk) and some grains like rice, pasta, or oatmeal. Yoghurt is good too.

We always mix our antibiotics in a strawberry syrup, like the kind you would put on an ice cream sundae. You could pull up the dose of his medication and then pull up an identical amount of sweet strawberry syrup, mix them, and then try to give that to him. He might like it better.

As for his break, do you know which bone he broke? I am a little concerned about it healing on its own. If you leave me your email address, I can write you directly. Be sure to write it in this format: claire att email dott com so that the spam web crawlers don't get it!

Anonymous said...

HELP, Please I need a quick response. I cleaned the gerbil cage yest.4pm and forgot about it. this morning 9am I went to check on them on one of the little guys foot was stuck under the wire, the ankle crushed and bloody and the foot swollen 3x. I immediately released him wrapped him in a towel and soaked his foot in peroxide. He lay there and let me hold him still. I applied a triple antibio ointment and put him in bleach cleaned 10 gal glass tank. he's dragging around his limp leg, swelling went down, eating, drinking and acting like nothing happened. What do I do next? what medications will calm or put him to sleep enough for me to wrap it. what drugs, ointments, etc. are ok to use without going to a vet?