Health

As capybara caretakers, nothing is more important to us than our animals. Sadly, little is know about cause of death of captive capybaras. Without this information it is difficult to know when we need to be worried about a capybara’s appearance or behavior and when our concerns are probably unfounded.

The ROUS Foundation has been gathering data from both our necropsy program and the reliable information about capybara deaths. The following two tables summarize what we know as of June 2017.

Table of capybara cause of deaths

Cause of Death

The following table provides more detail about specific cases from the cause of death table.

Notes related to capybara cause of death table

The information below deals with specific health concerns. The ROUS Foundation appreciates your input on this information including new conditions or changes to the descriptions of currently covered conditions. Your participation is crucial to the health and wellbeing of all captive capybaras.

Image of a capybara yawning and showing its large incisors.

An example of healthy capybara teeth

Being such large animals, especially for rodents, people often assume that capybaras are robust health-wise. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be true. Capys are, in fact, prone to a variety of illnesses in captivity. This page goes over some of the health issues that the ROUS Foundation has seen in captive capybaras.

Each health issue is discussed in five parts: name, symptoms, treatment, outcomes, and prevention. If you are a caretaker for a captive capybara, please read the page in its entirety. If you have a capybara who is/has suffered from any of these conditions or from something not listed, please contact us.

  • scurvy
    • symptoms: slow growth, hair loss, weak ligaments, bleeding gums, low bone density
    • treatment: increase vitamin C intake. Vit. C dosage should be at least 1,000 mg per day for an adult capybara (over 100 lbs)
    • outcomes: dwarfism, deformities in the legs, dead or decaying teeth, death
    • prevention: as with treatment, prevention focuses on including a high level of vitamin C in the diet. Unlike most mammals, capybaras and other cavies cannot synthesize their own vitamin C. Do not rely on guinea pig food as a source, or on other typical natural sources of vitamin C. Capybaras appear need high levels of this vitamin.
    • Posterior view of a capybara with narrow hips due to chronic scurvy
  • Injuries
    In general, capybaras recovery from injuries quickly.

    • The most common injury is the loss of an incisor. Even an incisor broken off near of above the gum line typically grows back within two weeks.

This is not to say that a broken incisor is to be considered insignificant. During the time that the incisor is growing, the capybara must be fed soft foods. These can include soft fruits and vegetable, soaked hay, or soaked pellets. In addition, cropped grass can be feed. Remember that the capybara’s molars are still functional, the problem is just in cutting or chopping food into an appropriate size for mashing with the molars.
Cracked or broken molars should be taken seriously as they may be a sign of either vitamin C (scurvy) or calcium deficiency. The dietary feed should be modified to increase the content of these two nutrients.

  • Damaged lips
    Due to various causes, including fighting among capybaras, especially males, capys may injure their face or lips. While many of these injuries resolve on their own, in some cases stitches or surgery may be required.

    Wild male capybara with extensive damage to the lips

    Wild male capybara with extensive damage to the lips

    capybaras can survive surprisingly extensive damage to the lips, as shown in the photo above. However precautions should be taken to prevent such injuries. These injuries are often caused by capybaras fighting for dominance, especially among males. If kept together, male capybaras must be provided with sufficient room and barriers to allow them to avoid direct interaction.