GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ) – This may be the first time a Capybara will be treated with chemotherapy.

The large rodent named Jersey, who resembles a dramatically over-sized guinea pig, lives at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids.

BluePearl Veterinary Partners oncologist Dr. Christine Swanson says Jersey, who is 11 years old and weighs about 100 pounds, recently had a cancerous tumor removed from her leg.

Swanson said chemotherapy beads will be implanted next.

“Chemotherapy is a pretty scary word if you’re used to it on the human side, but in veterinary medicine it’s more about quality of life,” she told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Beth Fisher.

“Particularly for Jersey here…these are going to be very slowly released.”

Swanson said this type of chemo is usually used for horses, but has been used to treat cats and dogs over the last five years. She the treatment probably won’t bother Jersey too much.

“We don’t expect her to have any side effects from the chemotherapy,” Swanson added. “It really is more just going to kind of soak into the area where each bead is placed and affect those individual cells and hopefully kill off any remaining cancerous cells.”

Jersey’s prognosis, she said, is pretty good. 

The John Ball Zoo is home to more than 2,500 and recently added a zipline attraction. For hours, location and more information, visit


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