Hamster 911: Paws and Claws to the Rescue

Encounters of the Local Kind: Wilmington’s only on-call exotic animal vet saves the day.

Sponsored by Paws and Claws Animal Hospital, P.C..

By Jamie Penn

It was early one Friday evening, and my daughter’s hamster, Pineapple, didn’t look so good. He was sweating, and had sores on his paws that had appeared overnight. I had no idea who to call, besides the obvious. But, I was pretty sure that local after-hours veterinarians didn’t include exotic animal specialists. I called several emergency animal clinics in town, and they all said the same thing – “Paws and Claws…but they were closing soon”, and the exotic animal hospital in Raleigh was probably our best bet.

Unfortunately, my daughter heard the Raleigh suggestion.

I looked up the number for Paws and Claws, and called and spoke to the receptionist. She was extremely kind, but said that the doctor had left for the day, and that after-hours services were only available for patients. I could leave a message, but Dr. Anderson was leaving town for the weekend, and it would likely be Monday before he could return the call, she said. The look on my daughter’s face made it clear: “Leave. A message. Anyway.”

I left a message, hung up the phone, and the begging began. We just had to drive to Raleigh. Call the vet again. Leave another message.

A couple of hours of tears and several home remedies later, Dr. Anderson called!

After listing the symptoms, with my daughter breathless in the background, he assured us that a) keeping him warm, fed, and well-hydrated was the best treatment, and that b) he was probably going to be just fine. The black parts of his limbs and ear would slough off, but his mobility and health wouldn’t be affected. He deduced that Pineapple was likely suffering from something similar to the effects of frost bite, the cause of which, he couldn’t be sure.

Dr. Anderson, exotic animal hero.

I expected Dr. Anderson to ask me to call and schedule an appt. But, he didn’t. Pineapple, would likely be fine by Monday, he said. If something changed, of course, we could bring him in. My daughter’s tears dried, she sighed with relief, and we didn’t drive to Raleigh at 7pm on a Friday night. A huge public thank you to Dr. Anderson, my exotic pet hero.

Six months later, Pineapple is going strong. He’s missing a few toes and part of an ear, but he’s just as cuddly, fast and loved as ever.

As it turns out, this is a pretty standard Paws and Claws testimonial. Drs. Sam Smith and Stephen Anderson, Paws and Claws Animal Hospital founders, are committed to the well-being of animals in a way that is a bit unexpected, even for veterinarians.

I went in recently to investigate. The new Paws and Claws facility on Oleander Drive is immaculate, but playful and bright by design. The doctors and clinicians chat between patients. And, resident pets jockey for attention. When we settled into their office, Megatron, the cat, eased into Dr. Anderson’s lap.

“Animals can’t tell you what’s wrong,” Dr. Anderson said, stroking his 18 year-old companion. “We’re their voice. They depend on us. And, I take that responsibility very seriously.”

Dr. Smith and Dr. Anderson , celebrating.

Dr. Smith agreed. Specializing in advanced dentistry – maxillofacial trauma, surgical extractions, and other rare procedures – Smith says every day is different. Some days patients are incredible mysteries to solve, and other days cases require quick fixes, a good belly-rub, and a few tasty treats.
The in-house pets tend to lighten the load for the facility’s 21 employees.

“Let’s see, there’s Blixx, the fat-tail gecko; Louis, Megatron, Carl and Butterworth – the resident cats; and then, there’s our house turtle.” Dr. Smith, said. “They keep it real around here.”

The turtle, malformed from being kept in captivity is their “spokes-turtle” for why not to keep wild turtles as pets. “The employees love him, though. He’s happy…and spoiled rotten!” Smith said.

Some other things they’d like to remind pet owners, like me? Every pet, including hamsters, birds, lizards and other exotics, needs at least a yearly check up.

“Exotics, and cats as well, are all good at hiding their symptoms. Once they’re symptomatic, they’re likely really sick. And, if you bring them in sick, it’s often too late.” said Dr. Anderson.

Lesson learned! Yearly hamster appointment scheduled.

Click here to schedule your pet’s next appointment.






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