This blog entry is a followup to Lumpy Capy, please read that post first.
WARNING: This blog contains graphic medical images.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
There was really not much we could do about that. It isn’t serious enough for stitches.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disturbingly, there were two more small abscesses. Dr. Hoppes took them both out and closed them with one or two stitches.
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.
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.
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.