Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Hamster Teeth

By Catya
Catya is a judge with the California Hamster Association. She shares her experiences in hamster ownership from a high school student's perspective.

Liz and Catya at the Pet Expo
Liz (left) and Catya answered questions about hamsters while manning the California Hamster Association booth at America’s Family Pet Expo.
fang the hamster
Photos Courtesy Catya
Fang the hamster gets her teeth trimmed, much to her protest.

Hello again, everyone! The Pet Expo was awesome this year. I had some great conversations with many hamster owners (and future hamster owners) and everyone learned a lot, including me. I can’t wait for next year!

This year’s Pet Expo was complicated by some hamster drama. Nefertiti, AKA “Fang,” needed emergency care during the weekend, and we were at the veterinarian’s office until 4 a.m.! But the next morning, we were at the Pet Expo again, smiling and cheerful … hooray for caffeine! Liz, my roommate and hamster-sitter, was a trooper throughout the whole thing. She stayed up through all the night vigils with Fang; in fact, she was rather active in taking care of Fang. She’d been taming Fang and her sisters, and she’s also hoping to become a veterinarian, so we were glad for her help.

Fang got her nickname because all her life she’s had malocclusion — meaning her jaws and teeth are misaligned. If they made hamster braces, she’d be fine! But they don’t make hamster braces, so we took her to a veterinarian. The veterinarian trimmed her teeth so that they weren’t hurting Fang and she could eat, but she told us that Fang’s teeth were misaligned permanently. We have to trim her teeth every two weeks so that they stay short enough for Fang to eat.

I have been trimming Fang’s teeth for about a year and a half, and she despises me! That’s why it’s so good that Liz has started taming Fang and her sister hamsters. Liz gets to be the “good cop,” handing out the treats and being friendly. In fact, Liz spotted Fang’s recent crisis. She was giving Fang some fresh fruit that night when she saw that her cheek pouch was hanging outside her mouth. We tried to put it back in, but we soon saw that it wouldn’t stay in. Fang had been trying to put it back in, too, and it just wouldn’t stay, which meant it was time to see a veterinarian again.

Finding a veterinarian who could take care of a hamster at night was quite a task. I had to call at least 10 emergency veterinary clinics before I found a place that worked, and it didn’t even have an exotics veterinarian on duty. The veterinarian was able to give Fang medicine and put the pouch back in for the night, though, and that gave her a huge leg up for recovery. Fang is now doing well, thanks to the care of the veterinarians and Liz.

When I was checking on Fang the other night, I thought about hamsters and veterinarians. The reason that it was so hard to find an emergency veterinarian who works with hamsters is that there’s little demand for them — most hamster owners don’t bother taking their hamsters in for medical care when there’s something wrong. I can see their logic ($15 hamster, $50 veterinarian visit), but every time I look at Fang, I know a veterinarian visit is well worth it. At least Fang thinks so!

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Hamster Teeth

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Reader Comments
I'm glad to hear that Fang is doing alright.
Mike, Columbia, TN
Posted: 5/16/2009 11:36:57 AM
I had a mouse named Albert, who needed to have his teeth trimmed by the veterinarian every 3 weeks or so because of a malocclusion. He had a seizure shortly after I got him, and it made his jaw seize and permanantly misalign. He was put on liquid flavored (Raspberry) Phenobarbitol for the seizures, and responded well to the therapy. The vet put him under isoflurane anesthetic to trim his teeth. He was a special mouse, and I am glad to have been his "Mommy"!
Kathleen, North Olmsted, OH
Posted: 5/14/2009 6:35:13 PM
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