P.E.I. animal hospital takes on its smallest surgery ever

When Beckie Martell got a call from her daughter Emily that their pet hamster, Mr. Nibbles was hurt, she knew they had to try and help him.

'The equipment is not really designed for something that is so tiny'

The New Perth Animal Hospital took on one of its smallest patients for surgery last week. (Submitted by Beckie Martell)

When Beckie Martell got a call from her daughter Emily that their pet hamster, Mr. Nibbles was hurt, she knew they had to try and help him.

"When your own daughter's hamster is sick and needs something done, I just wanted to fix him for her, or at least try because he couldn't be left the way he was," Martell said.

Mr. Nibbles, a seven-month-old dwarf hamster, had gotten his front paw caught in his hamster wheel and broke it, which caused circulation problems in his leg.

Martell, who works as a veterinarian assistant at the New Perth Animal Hospital in New Perth, P.E.I., brought the 50-gram hamster into work to see if something could be done. It was determined that Mr. Nibbles would need to have his broken paw amputated.

Too small for regular equipment

Dr. Claudia Lister, a veterinarian with the animal hospital, said she was nervous at the prospect of performing surgery on an animal so small.

"This is definitely the tiniest animal I have ever taken to surgery," Lister said. "When you're talking something that's so tiny, the anesthetic risk is much greater but also the equipment is not really designed for something that is so tiny."

Mr. Nibbles, a 50 gram hamster, is making a full recovery after undergoing surgery to have broken paw amputated. Veterinarians at the hospital had to fashion a miniature cone to fit the small hamster's head. (Submitted by Beckie Martell)

Lister said she and her team had to refashion medical equipment in order to perform the surgery. They rejigged a facemask designed for a kitten to fit Mr. Nibbles in order to give him anesthesia.

Lister also had to wear special magnifying glasses to help her see the hamster's tiny limb during the surgery.

"We had to make sure we were absolutely ready with absolutely everything before we started because we knew that there was more risk that we could potentially lose him," she said.

Surgery a success

Lister said the surgery went fairly quickly and was a success. When it was over, the team had to create a small cone out of cardboard to fit the hamster because there are none small enough for the hospital to purchase.

For Lister, the success of the surgery was not only exciting, but a relief.

Dr. Claudia Lister, the veterinarian who performed the surgery on Mr. Nibbles, said all the tools had to be refashioned to fit an animal that small. (Submitted by Beckie Martell)

"I had already been told that had he not made it, and fairly so, that I was going to have to break the news to Mr. Nibbles' owner when she called after school was out. So we were really really happy to be able to give her good news."

Mr. Nibbles is now recovering and doing well. He won't be able to use another hamster wheel, but his owner Emily is happy to have him home.

"She was ecstatic actually," Martell said. "She thought this was pretty cool and was very glad he survived the surgery."

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