Pet Capybara Health Warning: It Might Be Potentially Dangerous To Let Your Capybara Swim In a Chlorinated Swimming Pool Designed and Intended for Human Use

I am afraid I have had to remove the photos as some nasty person has been removing the watermark from my photos and uploading them to the internet. It is illegal to remove the watermark.

NWN Romeo Swimming

Marvin and Elizabeth have asked me to write this blog to warn people who live with capybaras of the  potential health risks to a capybara if he or she is swimming in a chlorinated swimming pool primarily designed for human use.

The first danger is from the chemicals used to chlorinate the water in the pool and kill off dangerous bacteria.  Chlorine can be harmful to capybaras in a number of different ways.  Therefore the amount of chlorine used should be kept to the lowest possible level; see information below.

The second danger is that the water in the swimming pool may not be sufficiently fresh and pure.

The dangers are compounded by the effects of evaporation wherein the concentration of chemicals and impurities builds up over time. This is called an Accumulative Effect.

One capybara became listless and weak as a result of swimming in a chlorinated pool. He lost his appetite and blood began to trickle from his nose. The vet diagnosed chlorine in the swimming pool as being responsible for his deteriorating condition. He made a fairly rapid recovery once he stopped swimming in chlorine.

A capybara will drink the water in the swimming pool thereby imbibing any toxins and chemicals that might be harmful. The chemicals which are designed to kill off the dangerous bacteria in the pool water may also kill off the beneficial bacteria in the capybaras’ gut leading to digestive problems.

In the case of Romeo and Tuff’n, Marvin and Elizabeth were finding that they had to resort to giving the capybaras Bene-Bac on an increasingly frequent basis. Marvin and Elizabeth monitor Romeo and Tuff’n’s stools to assess their health. If the stools are individual, capsulated olives, that is a good sign. If the stools become softer and sausage shaped this could be a sign of potential ill health.

In Marvin’s words: “we were inadvertently slowly poisoning Romeo and Tuff’n”.

Romeo and Tuff’n never defecate in the swimming pool.

Marvin and Elizabeth have resolved the problem to their satisfaction by completely draining the swimming pool and installing the following two pool filter systems, which are designed to destroy bacteria and control algae using a formula that is low in chlorine, relying on minerals instead:

The Name of this filter is Nature 2 SP

The Name of this filter is Pool RX Mineral Unit:

They will also be draining the swimming pool once a year in order to ensure that the pool water is reasonably fresh.

The cost of the filters is approximately $150. The cost of changing the water in your swimming pool once a year is unlikely to be more than $100, I am told.

Marvin tells me that before they switched to the new water filtering system and changed the water in the swimming pool, which he reckons was several years old, Romeo and Tuff’n had not been feeling particularly well and their tummies were swollen. This effect was most noticeable on a Monday, as Romeo and Tuff’n spend more time in the swimming pool over the weekends. Romeo’s skin had become dry and flaky and he was scratching more often than any other capybara I have seen. Now their skin and fur is back to normal, as are their poohs.

A recommended minimum size of pool/pond is 9 ft x 16 ft with a depth of 4 ft. The pool or pond should have a few shallow places where the capybara can sit and rest while still remaining mostly submerged. If your pool does not have any steps or ledges that would provide this, you should put something like a plastic table in the pool for the capybara to sit on. Make sure it is securely anchored and does not tip over when the capybara climbs onto it.

A large, 8 foot, cattle tank is not sufficiently large, many people would say.

Capybaras are outstanding swimmers and need a pool/pond that is at least 4 feet deep. They love to swim underwater and are very playful, rolling and turning. Capybaras can stay under water for up to 5 minutes.

In the wild capybaras spend much of the afternoon in water. Submerging in water is a way for them to thermoregulate, i.e. cool themselves.

If the capybaras have a dedicated pool and are not swimming in the pool that they share with the humans, the following information might be useful:

One friend on the East Coast who has two capybaras, gave me the following information:  “Chlorine isn’t great for anyone’s health but it’s better than fecal contamination. Zoos use it in the marine mammal pools and possibly also in the bears’ pool and in some other animals’ pools.  Public swimming pools are supposed to be kept at 3 parts chlorine per million, and this is the recommended level for home pools. Because our capybaras use their pool so often and also drink the water in it, we aim for 1 ppm and we change the water about once a month. We also do not use a floating chlorine tab, like most home pools use. We pour in chlorine (ie. we ‘shock’ the pool) as we think the pool needs it (this is usually done overnight to allow time for the pool to be sanitized and for the chemicals to dissipate), using the filter pump to circulate the chemicals. The capybaras are not allowed back into the pool until the chlorine isn’t as strong. If the capybaras are not defecating in their pool (they rarely defecate in the pool but very occasionally they do) then we barely treat the pool. Just enough to compensate for skin and body oil contamination. During the summer, with algae and pooh and heat, we practically treat every night. However we don’t stabilize the chlorine, so much of that will dissipate into the atmosphere (chlorine that binds with contaminates will stay in the pool and build up). We also have the cattle trough which they use and it only has fresh water. It is pretty standard practice in the summer, to see them leave the pool and go rinse off in the fresh water.  The reason the capybaras rinse in the fresh water may have as much to do with the pH level in the water, as with the chlorine level.

Here is some information about the size of pool a capybara needs:
















8 thoughts on “Pet Capybara Health Warning: It Might Be Potentially Dangerous To Let Your Capybara Swim In a Chlorinated Swimming Pool Designed and Intended for Human Use

  1. EXCELLENT & TIMELY ADVICE. Frankly, I’m surprised they hadn’t thought of it before. Chlorine is highly toxic to most animals. I hope other capybara, or any other animal, owner who have chlorinated pools are mindful of this. Thank you for bringing this valuable information to our attention. Bonnie


    • Thank you very much Bonnie. I did a Google search on animals sharing chlorinated swimming pools, and there is very little on the Internet. I found one blog about dogs using swimming pools and it was more about how the humans would suffer sharing our pool with the dog, in fact I think it was all about how the humans would suffer!

      Now the problem is how to get the information to anyone who is thinking of sharing their swimming pool with a capybara. I’ve noticed at least 3 people in the last couple of weeks, one living with a capybara (newly arrived. I dropped her are a few very gentle hints which I don’t think were appreciated) and 2 people who are thinking of living with capybaras, mention their swimming pools being shared. As if the fact that they had a swimming pool meant that they could definitely open their home to a capybara, without giving any more thought to the conditions in the swimming pool. I hope they will do a bit of research!


  2. Wonderful blog, this information may keep Capy’s healthy. We wish that we had done something earlier. It’s the little things or something you might not think would hurt them, that you have to look out for. Capybara’s are not designed to live in a house. Everything is dangerous to them. We as humans have to look ahead and make it as safe as possible. This is a learning experience for all of us. Thank you Liz, for all the research and time you have put in to all the life saving blogs.

    Marvin, Elizabeth, Romeo and Tuff’n. Yellow Cat Too.


    • Thank you very much for giving me the information and the opportunity to write this blog.

      What you’ve written here is very pertinent and beautifully put. I’m going to use it as an introduction to the blog on Facebook.

      Now the problem is how to get the information to anyone who is thinking of sharing their swimming pool with a capybara.


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