Last year I started seeing a hamster named Bob. He presented to me with several abscesses under the skin, some pretty large. I talked to the owner and he agreed to let me try and surgically remove them. Now, this is a little hamster, about 37g, so any surgical procedure carries more than an average risk. But this little guy (the nicest hamster I've ever seen) did great. Unfortunately, some of the abscesses were very deep and had spread between some of the muscles and bones. I told the owner that I couldn't remove all of them and he had a guarded long-term prognosis. We started antibiotics post-operatively and hoped for the best, though I warned the owner that we might have to euthanize him soon if he didn't improve.
That was almost a year ago. Bob has been back to see me several times, each time for a return of his abscesses. We haven't done more surgery, but I drain them as best as I can, put him on antibiotics, and caution the owner that his prognosis is guarded. Today he came in again for a new, large abscess, and we went through the same procedure. Throughout it all, Bob has been a little trooper, handling the procedures well and continuing to be extremely well behaved. And despite my continued warnings, he is still doing pretty good.
Bob has taught me a couple of things. First, it reinforced my belief that a pet's monetary value has little to do with the emotional bond people have. This owner has spent close to $400 in the last year for various visits, medications, and procedures; buying a new hamster would cost less than $10. His owner loves him very much. The second lesson is that we doctors don't have all of the answers (not that I needed too much reminding of that), and some pets simply defy the odds.
Bob is now 1 1/2 years old, which is geriatric for a hamster (most live to be around 2). I'm not sure how much longer he has, especially with a new abscess that I couldn't completely drain. But I'm not giving up on him, and continue to be amazed by this little guy.