Ocular Disease in Guinea Pigs 👀

Ocular Disease in Guinea Pigs 👀

Ocular Disease in Guinea Pigs 👀

Eye disease in guinea pigs is something commonly noticed  by guinea pig parents, and is often a cause for concern. Veterinary care should be sought ASAP as ocular disease can result in permanent damage, blindness, or loss of the eye without prompt treatment.

Normal Guinea Pig Eyes

Colouration of guinea pig eyes vary considerably, and can range from a pink/red colour to dark black or brown naturally. Guinea pigs do not blink frequently like other mammals, and often you may even find them sleeping with their eyes open! Unfortunately this can put them at an increased risk of ocular disease and injury.

Guinea pigs are believed to have Dichromatic colour vision, meaning they do have the ability to see certain colour ranges, however is not as vivid as our colour vision as humans.

Signs of Ocular Disease

If you notice any of these signs in your guinea pigs, it is important to seek veterinary advice straight away. Eye disease often requires urgent treatment and care.

  • Cloudiness of the eye
  • Redness or inflammation of the eye or surrounding soft tissue
  • Frequent pawing or scratching at the eyes
  • Keeping an eye closed, or squinting
  • Discharge or crusts from the eye
  • Constant tearing
  • Bulges or masses
  • Discolouration (cataracts)

Common causes of eye disease in guinea pigs

  • Corneal Ulceration
    • Defined as any form of damage to the surface of the eye, including scratches, abrasions or irritation. This can be caused by a number of reasons, but is commonly due to traumatic injury such as hay poke, course bedding, or fighting with other guinea pigs.
  • Infection
    • Guinea pigs can be prone to ocular infections resulting in conjunctivitis. These can be due to contagious viral or bacterial infections, or excessive amounts of bacteria or fungal spores in the environment.
  • Dental disease
    • Dental disease is extremely common in guinea pigs, and can result in tooth root abscessation which often results in swelling under the eyes where the roots of the upper cheek teeth are located.
  • Neoplasia
    • Guinea pigs can develop tumours behind or around the eyes, which may result in a buldgy appearance of the eye or other issues.
  • Cataracts
    • Is a blue discolouration of the eyes, and can affect either one or both eyes. Cataracts can occur due to a range of reasons, including congenital or hereditary conditions, old age or diabetes.
  • Blocked nasolacrimal duct
    • Guinea pigs, like most other mammals, have a duct that runs between their eyes and nose. Occasionally, this duct can become blocked for a variety of reasons, including infection, or obstruction from growths. When this duct is blocked, tears are not able to continue down the passage and begin to ‘overflow’, resulting in increased clear ocular discharge.
  • Microphthalmia
    • Refers to having smaller than normal, or absent eyes. It is generally a hereditary condition diagnosed at birth, and very common in lethal guinea pigs.
  • Pea eye
    • Is a non-life threatening condition, and refers to a permanent protrusion of the conjunctival sac with a fatty deposit.

 Photo credit: Guinea lynx

Treatment of Ocular Disease

If you notice any signs of ocular disease in your guinea pigs, it is important to book a consultation with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Eye disease can be very serious and result in permanent damage to the eye, blindness, or even loss of the eye itself.

Whilst waiting for your vet appointment, you can clean any discharge from your guinea pigs eye with a warm, damp cloth. This will avoid hardening discharge to your guinea pigs hair, and may help to reduce some inflammation and pain. It is also recommended to ensure your guinea pigs bedding is clean and free of dust or irritants, including ammonia from soiled, urine soaked bedding.  

When guinea pigs are in pain, they may stop eating, which in turn can result in a condition called ileus where the intestines stop moving. This can be life threatening. Your vet will provide pain relief, however if your guinea pig has stopped eating or a reduced appetite, you should supplement their diet with syringe fed Oxbow Critical Care or Burgess Dual Care.

Your vet will perform a physical examination on your guinea pig to help with a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. This may include further diagnostic tests such as using a special stain to assess any damage or injury to the surface of the eye, taking a swab of any discharge to assess microscopically or send away for culture and sensitivity testing to establish the most effective antibiotics required. They may also recommend imaging such as radiographs or an MRI to assess for dental disease or tumours.

Your vet will likely prescribe some eye drops and medications for your guinea pigs, depending on what condition is diagnosed. It is very important to NOT USE ANY SELF-PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS as some eye drops can be detrimental if instilled when a corneal ulcer is present.