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P.E.I. vet performs career first in operation on 50-gram dwarf hamster

A dwarf hamster named "Mr. Nibbles" receives oxygen before being anesthetized at the New Perth Animal Hospital in New Perth, P.E.I. in this undated handout photo. A P.E.I. veterinarian performed surgery on her smallest-ever patient this week, a 50 gram dwarf hamster named Mr. Nibbles. Mr. Nibbles injured his foot in his exercise ball and needed an amputation. Dr. Claudia Lister said she carefully researched the correct anesthetic dosage to make sure the furry critter made it through the surgery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout, New Perth Animal Hospital
A dwarf hamster named "Mr. Nibbles" receives oxygen before being anesthetized at the New Perth Animal Hospital in New Perth, P.E.I. in this undated handout photo. A P.E.I. veterinarian performed surgery on her smallest-ever patient this week, a 50-gram dwarf hamster. Mr. Nibbles injured his foot in his exercise ball and needed an amputation. Dr. Claudia Lister said she carefully researched the correct anesthetic dosage to make sure the furry critter made it through the surgery. In the photo at right, "Mr. Nibbles" receives a treat after waking up from surgery. (New Perth Animal Hospital/CP Photos)

NEW PERTH, P.E.I. - A veterinarian in Prince Edward Island successfully operated on her smallest patient ever earlier this week - a 50-gram dwarf hamster named Mr. Nibbles.

“Somebody was asking me, 'How big is 50 grams? Is it the size of a walnut?”' Dr. Claudia Lister said Thursday in an interview from the New Perth Animal Hospital. “I said, 'More like two cotton balls.”'

Mr. Nibbles had injured his paw on his hamster wheel and needed an amputation.

Lister carefully researched the right anesthetic dosage to successful carry the furry critter through the surgery.

Mr. Nibbles' small size made him especially vulnerable to over-medication. Lister consulted veterinary journals and the Facebook group “Veterinary Anesthesia Nerds.”

“Other people might judge and say, 'Well, you know, a hamster perhaps doesn't warrant surgery.' But this is a little tiny living being that gives his owner quite a little bit of joy. He's got quite a little bit of personality.”
-Dr. Claudia Lister

A dwarf hamster named "Mr. Nibbles" receives a treat following surgery at the New Perth Animal Hospital in New Perth, P.E.I. in this undated handout photo.
A dwarf hamster named "Mr. Nibbles" receives a treat following surgery at the New Perth Animal Hospital in New Perth, P.E.I. in this undated handout photo.

Lister had to fashion special equipment, adjusting a dental dam to fit a small-animal cone around the hamster. She also used magnifying glasses to ensure accuracy.

The precautions paid off.

Within two minutes of the surgery, Mr. Nibbles was nibbling away at a treat presented by his happy owner, the daughter of one of Lister's employees.

The hamster is expected to make a full recovery. He's already walking on his three remaining paws.

“I guess he's the star,” said Lister.

The veterinarian opened her first clinic in 1976. Since then, she's removed fish hooks from animal windpipes, performed eye surgery on beloved pups and repaired the joint of a swan's leg.

She said some skeptics wondered whether operating on a creature with such a short lifespan was worth the effort. But Lister said it's always a good feeling to return any animal, large or small, to its home in a healthy condition.

“Other people might judge and say, 'Well, you know, a hamster perhaps doesn't warrant surgery.' But this is a little tiny living being that gives his owner quite a little bit of joy,” she said. “He's got quite a little bit of personality.”

This undated handout photo was taken during Mr. Nibbles' surgery.
This undated handout photo was taken during Mr. Nibbles' surgery.

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