Gidget the capybara is a normal pet capybara in all ways . . . except for her teeth.
She has no incisors. Those are the big bucky beaver teeth in front that give capybaras their distinctly rodential appearance.
Her molars are intact, so she can still eat anything she gets into her mouth, but she hasn’t got those scissor teeth in the front to chop up the grass into bite-sized pieces.
She will never bite computer cords or garden hoses, and she will never know the joy of terrorizing visitors by biting off the end of a corn cob, husk and all.
She is barely six months old, and has many healthy years ahead of her, but the first six months were shockingly expensive, and that’s why you’re reading about it here.
Gidget’s companion, Kizmit, is a male capybara who came to live with Dessirae a couple years ago. Kizmit was undersized for his age and so became a subject of the ROUS Foundation Why Weight? study, a weight tracking research project, to examine the correlation between the rate of weight gain and related health of young captive capybaras. Kizmit had been a lightweight youth but made some remarkable weight gain as he approached his first year. After her success with Kizmit, we were excited to learn that Dessirae had obtained a second capybara, a baby girl this time.
The ROUS Foundation tracked Gidget’s weight and her rate of weight gain was normal from the beginning. That’s why we were so surprised when Dessirae wrote to tell us that Gidget had broken her upper incisors. This can happen when a capybara is deficient in Vitamin C, but we knew Dessirae had been supplementing Gidget’s diet with Vitamin C since the day she got her. After all, that’s what turned around Kizmit’s weight. We were uncomfortable about this tooth breakage, but decided to wait and see. Rodent teeth grow continuously and they would probably show up in a week or so. Still, Gidget’s teeth had broken off so far back that it was starting to look like it wasn’t an injury, but maybe something congenital.
To our dismay, the upper teeth didn’t grow back in as quickly as we thought, and only a small brown misshapen “Pirate Tooth” had emerged. Of course, Gidget’s lower incisors had kept growing and the sharp teeth were rubbing on the upper gums. Dessirae took Gidget to the vet for radiographs and a dental exam. The radiographs showed the upper incisors in place, but they were misshapen all the way back to the tooth bud. The vet trimmed the lower incisors and we waited in suspense to see if her upper incisors would appear.
If they didn’t grow back in 2-3 weeks, they would have to be extracted and the search began for a veterinarian who was comfortable extracting all of the incisors from a 6-month-old capybara. This would be major surgery. An experienced veterinarian was located, a surgery date was selected, but still we hoped for a miracle. The surgery day approached without any positive dental changes so Gidget went in for surgery. All four incisors, upper and lower, were removed. Gidget is currently eating and drinking like a champ, taking her medicine, and seems frisky and in good spirits. Only then did I ask Dessirae what Gidget’s veterinary visits and surgery had cost: $2500!
The ROUS Foundation is associated with Texas A&M Veterinary School, and The Fund covers the costs of certain capybara blood tests, necropsies, and some other obscure and unusual procedures. This major cost is outside our scope of covered expenses. The ROUS Foundation has earmarked these funds for some other long-term research commitments. This is an unusual case and we will continue to work with Gidget and hope that Texas A&M will discover the cause of her dental abnormalities. Until then, I am hoping that the capybara community and fans will pitch in to help Dessirae cover these unexpected dental surgery costs.
The main reason why I am promoting this fundraiser for Dessirae is that her dedication and care for Gidget exemplify responsible pet ownership. My own non-profit pet sanctuary exists because not everyone makes the same commitment to pet ownership that Dessirae does. Capybaras are becoming the current fad pet, and the ROUS Foundation has seen a number of people obtaining capybaras as pets, only to discover that they are wild animals requiring much more care than readily available domestic pets. Finding a veterinarian can be an unsurmountable problem, for instance. So, my hat is off to Dessirae: she knew what she was getting into with capybaras, and she rose to the challenge. Every pet should be so lucky.