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A vet looks after all kinds of animals

But the smaller the patient, the more tricky certain issues are to solve.

For instance, the winter white dwarf hamster makes a very pretty pet, but they are tiny, weighing in at around thirty grams.

The first difficulty is making a diagnosis.

These pets are more often admired from a distance than petted, which means that they can be unused to handling. What creature would not defend themselves when an unknown giant reaches to pick them up, however gently?

They have an unfortunate defence mechanism of sinking their long and very sharp incisors into your skin, and then grinding their teeth painfully whilst gripping firmly. It’s odd to notice how often they manage to bite the most tender part of your finger, as well, leaving the vet to overcome the natural urge to shake the hand to free it of the pain.

Anecdotal stories of dwarf hamsters sent off into orbit and coming to a poor end circulate around vet school.

To really examine them, it is sometimes necessary to grasp them firmly by the scruff. But if you succeed, you only have one hand left with which to complete your examination.

Sometimes the only solution is to anaesthetise them, but this carries its own risks.

Having such a tiny body mass, with a large relative surface area, tiny creatures are at risk of hypothermia when anaesthetised. Decades ago, the norm was to place them in a pocket or convenient cleavage to recover after surgery. Colleagues who used this method became adept at detecting movement and removing them into a cage before the first nip!

And if surgery is the only solution, the final problem is how to keep sutures in place. With teeth specifically designed for cutting through almost any material, preventing self-interference has nurses reaching for all kinds of special solutions.

Don’t forget that our pet portrait competition for our 2022 calendar closes at midnight on October 17th. There is no charge to enter, and sales of the calendar will be donated to Rogers Wildlife Rescue. Go to mewesvets.co.uk/events for a chance to win some great prizes and have your pet’s portrait featured in our calendar!

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