It’s Not a Tumor!

Owner’s blog:

This blog entry is a followup to Lumpy Capy, please read that post first.

WARNING: This blog contains graphic medical images.

Coral in the driver's seat

The big day finally came for Garibaldi Rous’ trip to the Small Animal Clinic at Texas A&M University. Since y’all have read the Lumpy Capy blog post,  I don’t have to tell you why we were going. We rented a van the day before (expensive!) and Coral came over to do the driving. In the photo above, we are headed out the dirt road that leads from our house to civilization. Coral had to get her CD set up before we hit the pavement.

Settling down for the drive

We put Garibaldi in his crate for the first part of the trip. I am so glad his previous owners shipped him in a crate with room to grow! He’s twice the size he was when we got him but he still fits.

A chance of rain

Outside the van window, the sky was overcast with an interesting mixture of low and high clouds. The weather forecast said there was a chance of rain but we have been in such a horrible drought here in Central Texas that we just laugh when they say that. Those little clouds might put out a cup of rain altogether.

Out and about

Once we got past the town of Bastrop, the only town of any size between our house and College Station 150 miles away, we let Garibaldi out of the crate and gave him free roam of the back of the van. I was sitting in the lone seat in the back so that I could try to comfort him, he gets very nervous in the car.

Garibaldi and Coral in the exam room at the vet's

The trip was uneventful and we were only 30 minutes late for our appointment, a record for us. I’d warned his vet, Dr. Sharman Hoppes, that we might be late. It’s a long drive and it’s not easy to get a capybara up there for an 11:00 am appointment. Gari walked into the clinic on his leash, just like a fully trained capybara.

Capybaras sweat when they are nervous

Capybaras sweat when they are nervous. You can see just how nervous Gari was in the photo above. That is all sweat. And the blankets he used in the car were drenched with sweat even though we kept the AC cranked up.

Dr. Hoppes and her student, Kristen, meet with Garibaldi

Things started out pretty well. Garibaldi acted like he liked both Dr. Hoppes and Kristen. I threw one of his blankets over his head and held him tightly while Dr. Hoppes gave him a small shot of sedative. I didn’t hold him tightly enough though and he banged his nose a little bit on the strut for that table.

A gift from the vet clinic

While we were waiting, Dr. Hoppes brought me this wonderful paw print impression that they had made of Caplin Rous’ paw when he died. Since July 4th will mark six months, the paw print was especially touching. And one of the technicians painted a beautiful capybara picture on the back. I can’t tell you how moved I was. I really could not speak for some time. This is something I will treasure forever.

After a few minutes, Gari became very lethargic and hardly able to move, just what we had hoped for. Unfortunately, he was still able to move enough that it wouldn’t be safe to try to pick him up and put him on a gurney to the operating table, for that he needed another little shot. Since he was really almost asleep, Dr. Hoppes thought she could just give the shot with no trouble. No sooner had the needle touched his skin though and Gari was up and running…straight into a wall.

For the next attempt, Kristen used Gari’s harness to hold his front feet off the ground while Dr. Hoppes did a quick jab with the needle. Luckily this worked although Gari managed to up high into the air so that his nose was above the level of that table.

On the operating table

After a little while, Gari was safely under gas on the operating table with his crack team of veterinary specialists gathered around him. You might be wondering why there is that little swab of blood next to his mouth. Turns out that when Dr. Hoppes tried to give him that shot and he ran into the wall, he must have hit his lip on his teeth and cut himself. Those capybara teeth are super sharp.

Garibaldi cut his lip when he hit the wall

There was really not much we could do about that. It isn’t serious enough for stitches.

Everyone really liked Gari, especially when he was asleep

Coral watching the onset of the surgery

It was pretty nice that Dr. Hoppes let us watch and photograph the surgery. Of course, it was a minor operation, not like they opened his abdominal cavity or anything, still a lot of vets would not do this and we really appreciated it. Coral surprised me by not being the least bit queasy. If you are the queasy sort, you should probably stop reading this post now.

The lump

Once the hair was shaved and snipped away (capybara hair does not shave well), you could see the lump much better. A little squeeze and creamy pus started coming out of it. Not good.

Excising the abscess

Dr. Hoppes first cut a slit in the lump to make sure there was nothing else in there (like a bot fly) other than puss. There wasn’t so that meant she was clear to excise the whole thing. In capybaras, an infection is often encapsulated in a membrane which is the body’s defense against the spread of the infectious agent. That means that if you can get the whole capsule out without cutting it or rupturing it, you can remove the infection with little possibility of it spreading. That is what Dr. Hoppes did. As you can see in the last image above, the abscess came out in one piece with no pus leakages.

This was not as easy as it seemed. The abscess was fairly large and capybara skin is amazingly tough. The surgical instruments were hardly up for the job.

Bloody Coral

Dr. Hoppes had her student, Kristen, palpate the abscess so that she would know what one feels like if she ever runs into it again. Then she let me and Coral feel it, not that we’re likely to be engaged in another such surgical procedure. Coral took the opportunity to put a little humor (or is that horror?) in to the proceedings.

All stitched up

A few stitches and Garibaldi was as good as new.

Or was he? Now that he was down, it was a good time to examine his entire skin surface and see if any little abscesses were lurking under his sparse fur.

Another tiny abscess

Disturbingly, there were two more small abscesses. Dr. Hoppes took them both out and closed them with one or two stitches.

Stitching up the capybara

Coral watches as the procedure nears a close.

The third abscess

Subcutaneous fluids

Because of all of his sweating, it was decided that administering some subcutaneous fluids would be a good idea. The problem is that capybara skin is unlike the skin of any other mammal in that it is tightly bonded to the underlying fascia. You can’t just squirt a bunch of fluid in there. Only about 20 mls can be inserted into any one place and that resulted in the large bumps you can see in the above image.

Heading home

Garibaldi came out of the anesthesia nicely and we headed home thinking all had gone well. Or kind-of well. We still do not know why he had three abscesses or what this means about his future. And Garibaldi would not come out of his crate at all on the ride home. Still, we could see rain in the distance and a pretty fantastic cloud ray when the sun peaked out from behind some storm clouds. A good omen.

Good omen or no, things did not work out so well. When we got home, Garibaldi was very agitated. He kept jumping onto the window seat and then jumping down, then jumping back up and pushing on the window as if he wanted to go out. We were told not to let him swim in the pool for four days and not to let him back into the pond for 2 weeks so no outside time for him. Plus, I did not like the way he looked. His back was hunched up and his hind legs were right behind his front legs. He did not look or act comfortable.

That night he slept on the window seat, which he usually only does during the day. Only I exaggerate, he did not sleep, he just sat there all night, occasionally shuffling from one position to another. He didn’t eat anything. He didn’t even drink any water until about 3 am. In the morning I talked to Dr. Hoppes on the phone. We both decided that his behaviors indicate pain and the most likely source of that pain was the subcutaneous fluid injection site. The fluid should have been absorbed in a few hours but it was not.

At 24 hours post surgery, most of the injection sites are clearly visible as lumps of fluid under Garibaldi’s skin. He is acting a little better, eating some of his favorite foods, mostly corn,  a little grass that I picked for him and some lettuce. We stuffed his painkiller pills into gummy bears to get him to eat those but haven’t figured out a way to get him to eat his antibiotics yet. He is just not interested enough in food at this point to fall for the pill-in-the-treat trick. He has been steadily improving during the day so I hope that by tomorrow he will be mostly back to his usual self.

YouTube Preview Image

This video shows how Gari is moving and the large lumps of subq fluids.

Note: Gari did not get neutered since we did not want to do elective surgery while he had an infection. That is still looming over some distant future.

29 comments to It’s Not a Tumor!

  • Milana

    Poor Garibara. The day after surgery is always the worst for humans, and I can imagine that it’s probably the same for most creatures. I’m keeping him in my thoughts and wishing him better.

    As for the beginning of the video, it looks like he’s just trying to get comfortable and can’t seem to do so. I don’t blame him.

  • francine

    Poor Garibara! Poor MELANIE! I’m glad the ordeal is over, and he is improving. Good to know about the sub-q fluids, Gari is already being a trailblazer in capy medicine!

  • Jen S.

    Poor baby boy! So what do they plan to do if the fluid doesn’t absorb?

  • Bonnie Vollbeer

    Some observations, if I may: Gari was VERY brave to walk into the Vet’s office with his harness & leash. Maybe, somehow, he knew to be on his best behavior. I absolutely LOVE the impression of Caplin’s paw!! And can only imagine how Melanie must have felt receiving something so special! I know nothing about animal medicine, but it certainly looked like you had a great team, including Coral. I hope Gari’s recovery goes more smoothly now that 36 hours has passed. I’m sure the entire ordeal was a shock to his system! All of this is a big learning curve for Team Gari and I am hoping the outcome will be completely succesful. Thank you for posting this blog. I feel much better having seen Gari’s sweet face. I pray he won’t be in pain much longer and soon will be doing his trademark spins and rolls in the pool he loves so much.

  • Kirstin

    Poor guy! That sounds rough but I’m sure with you guys taking care of him he’ll be feeling better soon. All of our rats are cheering for you Gari!

  • So glad Garibaldi is improving, even if slowly. It seems like the trip to and from were more stressing than anything else. Hope to see new videos of him swimming in no time.

    A note to Meli: You are a fantastic person for going to such great lengths to see Gari get the proper treatment!

  • kathy

    Glad he is doing better and that it was not a tumor. 🙂

  • Jenni

    Love, kisses and hugs to you and Gari xx

  • Beth

    Poor Gari. It is so hard to see your family members in pain. Melly…I know that it is so hard to watch that. I hope he is feeling better and that you can all get some rest soon. By the way, love the Caplin paw print. What a lovely tribute.

  • Christie

    Thank you for a very satisfying post! That lump was driving me nuts, so glad to see it resolved and to see Gari recovering. It’s amazing how unique capybaras are medically.

  • Kendra

    I’m glad he’s doing okay now. I hope this is the first and last time he (and you!) have to go through this. Go Gari, we love you!

  • Donna and Zoe

    Melanie, you are such a great mom to Gari. It takes a special person to take care of an animal that’s anything but ordinary! I’ll be hoping that these are the last abscesses he’ll ever have in his long and healthy life. I love the Caplin paw print too. What a wonderful vet team you have.

  • First time I have heard about abscesses being encapsulated but I haven’t had much experience with abscesses. Thanks for the education. 😉 I’ll need to keep that in mind. 🙂 I know with cysts they are and removing the capsule is the preferred way to treat a cyst that is too large or keeps coming back after being expressed or debrided. Glad that Gari is doing as well as can be expected given the circumstances. 🙂

  • Petranef

    Oh, I’m so sorry that Gari had to go through that, but if it’s any comfort, something really important was learned from his experience! Techs like me now know about the SQ fluids issue (not that I’ll likely see a capybara in practice, alas!). Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Crystal

    I am so glad Gari is on the way to getting better! Thank you for posting your experience. I am a 3rd year vet student at TAMU and often work with Dr. Hoppes. She is such a nice caring veterinarian and a joy to work with. I am currently working away from school, but this post was such a good learning experience on capy health.


  • Gari looks a little bit drunk like I did after I went to the vet last time. They didn’t slice me open, though. I did get a shot, but I have never minded shots. Stacy holds me and I just sit there like a good boy. I like going to the vet, but our car ride is only 15 minutes, not an hour and a half. Gari will be better soon, especially once he is allowed to go swimming again.

  • Malkah

    I am so glad that the procedure was (fairly) simple and straightforward. I’m so sorry it was so scary for Gari. I’m so glad he has Melanie. SO GLAD. And Coral. And him eating his corn made ME want some corn!!

    I have chronic pain, so I totally get the shifting around trying to find a more comfortable position.

  • Tea Cavy

    My big friend you were very brave. I hope you feel better soon. That was scary to watch. Your Mel sure takes good care of you.

  • Kathryn

    Once he is back to his normal routine (swimming, eating) he’ll be good as new. Thanks for the update!

  • Dharma

    Melanie….what exactly was the cause of those. Will Gari have to go through that again? I love the gift you received from the staff, very thoughtfull, but you deserve it and then some. I know our boy is in good hands, you’re the best!

  • Vale

    Feel Better Gari!!!


  • Gabby_da_Tabby & Carol

    We are so glad you have that procedure behind you, Gari. Wishing you a speedy recovery. Melanie, thanks for the detailed report, very informative. What a wonderful gift they gave you. Your family has made a difference in how they practice medicine today.

  • Alex

    Мelanie, thank you for sharing it with us. Hope he will recover soon – at least he did not have the same horrible effect of anestesia that Caplin had. I cross my fingers for all of you.

  • Yigal

    We (me and the whole family) wish Gary the fastest recovery!!! Being a human doctor (anesthesiologist and intensive care physician), I have little experience in veterinary anesthesia…I understood it is hard to impossible to cannulate capy’s veins in the legs, like we do in dogs….what were the anesthetic drugs delivered to Gary? was the pus sent to bacteriology lab for culture? to pathology lab? Seeing the photos I understood that Gary preserved his own breathing throughout the surgery and n artificial ventilation was not necessary….does somebody know how to intubate Capy’s trachea? to ventilate them with mask (they have a blunt nose and seem to be easily ventilated with mask with some lube around just to enhance the mask sealing. We love Gary and watch all his blogs!!!!

  • Oscar Reyes

    Awww, I hadn’t idea! Gari, you are a hero! Get well, you big you!

  • […] Station, Texas to have some abscesses removed. Just to refresh your memory, Melly blogged about it here. After ten days, I was supposed to have my stitches taken out. Considering how stressful the drive […]

  • Reg

    Thanks for blogging this issue, sometimes being able to look up a procedure before taking a pet to the vet helps, and seeing the vets in action is good for owners who would not normally be allowed behind the scenes.

  • Mary

    I use a plastic syringe without a needle to put fluid medicine into my Chihuahua’s mouth when needed. It’s easy to messure the fluid and they usually swallow it down if placed in the back of the mouth. For pills, I wrap them in american cheese. I’ve also used peanut butter, but cheese is prefered. I know your pet is not a dog, but I just thought I’d give you this tip in case it might help. Maybe it would work.

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