This is a very hard post for me to write. A beautiful young capybara named Buella Belle died this week. The photo of her above was taken on the day she died. You can see how gorgeous she was and how healthy she looked. And you might even notice the resemblance to Garibaldi Rous, especially around the large ears. They were half-siblings, having the same father but different mothers.
This is the email that I received from Buella’s owner
I am so devastated my 4 month old capybara just died. She was in the grass eating dandylions yesterday then I saw her eating azelias. I brought her in and latter she started to salivate and cry and moan. I called Justin and Texas A&M for help. I gave her some milk replacement, charcoal caps, and water. She slept with me and had a big poop. She seemed better this morning. She ate a little tonight and drank some milk then she started to cry and I thought she was hipcuping. When I went to see if she was ok she jumped into my arms and went into spasms. I was getting into the car to take her a triage clinic when she died. I can’t believe it she was such a sweet girl and we all loved her so much. I know about your ROUS Fondation and would like to have a necropsy preformed at Texas A&M to know exactly what killed her. Please forward the information for doing this. Thank you.
I am very glad Buella’s owner learned about the ROUS Foundation. Even though it looks very much like Buella died from azalea poisoning, we can’t know for sure without clinical evidence.
I asked her owner to tell me a little more about what happened and this is the response she sent:
This is the picture I took yesterday of Beulla Belle, Mothers Day, when I thought she was on the mend. She was four months old. She wanted to go out the day before to hunt for grass in the walled-in garden where our two ducks were sitting under a Japanese Maple tree enjoying the sunshine. She was usually following her herd of three small dogs around trying to copy everything they did but they had already been out and back while she slept in that morning. I knew she was safe in the garden but I was wrong. A killer dressed in bright pink petals was waiting, a small azalea bush. I can not be sure that the azalea killed her but she had all the signs of plant toxicity by azalea that my frantic web searching uncovered. I followed the instructions and put charcoal caplets in her mouth and tried to force her to drink water through a baby bottle. I called vets and poison control help lines. There was no professional help. It was late at night by then and the few live people I spoke with in my rural area had never heard of a Capybara and didn’t seem to want to. She seemed to be doing better the next morning and Justin from Kapi’yva Exotics who helped me through the night via emails and I thought she would have a stomach ache for a few days and would fully recover but she died last night after leaping into my arms. She is being sent today to Texas A&M for a necropsy through the ROUS Foundation. She will be dearly missed.
As you can see, Buella Belle’s owner is no stranger to exotic pets.
Like most of us, Buella’s owner did not know azaleas were toxic until too late. In fact, they are very toxic with only 0.2% of body weight in leaves potentially causing death.
I have to admit that some toxic plant may have caused Caplin Rous’ death. There is nothing obvious in my yard but not enough is known about capybaras’ sensitivity to different plants. And maybe there is some plant that Caplin ate one leaf from per month but that built up over the course of years.
There is one thing for certain though, we all need to be more careful about toxic plants. And this is not just for pets, these plants could just as easily cause serious illness or death in children. If you are unsure about the plants in your yard, have a landscaper or botanist out to identify them for you. Ask about toxicity and then look them up yourself.
Because of Buella’s death, I am going to have the ROUS Foundation investigate labeling and warnings on nursery plants. You can help, tell me what you know.
Also, do not forget that herbicides and insecticides are poisons! Please do not use them on your property if you have pets or young children. And “weed and feeds” are included in that category.
Here is a link to the ASPCA page on toxic plants.
Here is a link to a book, The Safe Dog Handbook by Melanie Monteiro, that covers the same subject.