Guinea pigs are amongst the most popular pets in the United States thanks to their small size, curiosity, and affection toward humans. However, as you’ll read more info here, they are also prone to certain health affections, especially in the eye area, with problems ranging from cataracts and conjunctivitis to pea eye, microphthalmia or dermoid cysts.
Guinea pigs are often considered perfect first pets, especially for households with young children who need to learn more about being responsible and what it is like to look after another life.
There are several reasons why people opt for Guinea pigs as pets but, perhaps the most popular is that they are quite easy to raise. The biggest rodents kept as pets, these animals have the perfect size to be handled by both children and adults. They aren’t very picky when it comes to food and, most importantly, don’t require your full attention.
Although they need the affection of partners or their human companions, Guinea pigs can be left alone during the day without worrying about them. They are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are mainly active after dawn but can find the strength to play and socialize with their human owners during the day as well.
As with most other rodents, Guinea pigs are quite sensitive to daylight since they are mainly used to the nightlife. Thus, they aren’t actually known for their incredibly sharp vision and often enough suffer from various eye problems. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common.
Corneal ulceration is considered to be the number one eye condition affecting Guinea pigs. It usually appears as a result of an eye trauma from bedding but there could be other causes as well. Straws, hay, splinters or other small sharp items can cause corneal disease.
In order to avoid this, you should carefully choose the bedding and the chewing toys of your piggy and regularly check its cage for any signs of trauma. The only one who can establish whether or not your pet has corneal disease or the severeness of the condition is the vet.
Most of the times, the vet will recommend eye drops and special lubricants that should be applied according to clear specifications. If the ulceration is not very deep, it can heal in time, restoring your pet’s vision completely.
This affection is quite common in all mammals, including humans and Guinea pigs. Typical signs of conjunctivitis include discharge, redness or epiphora but you should pay close attention to your pet and notice any other changes in its health.
The affection can be triggered by an infection, an irritant, or an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, conjunctival bacterial swabs won’t provide too much information about the identity of the pathological organisms but are still considered efficient because they can identify other health problems, including salmonella and Listeria.
Another cause of conjunctivitis also refers to poor cage hygiene which usually leads to a high concentration of urinary ammonia in the bedding.
Vitamin C deficiency can also trigger this health problem, especially when it comes to Guinea pigs. Keep in mind that these rodents are unable to produce vitamin C on their own, thus they should be fed a balanced diet that includes enough of this vitamin.
In the long term, you may want to provide to your pet dry food and pellets specifically designed for its needs, rich in vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants.
Cataracts don’t only affect Guinea pigs but a wide variety of mammals, including rodents or humans. It is quite common for these small pets to develop this condition, especially since there are various reasons behind it.
Unfortunately, only severe cases of cataracts (about 1 in 10) are visible to the naked eye, so make your Guinea pig is thoroughly checked by a veterinarian around once a year to determine possible health problems from its earliest stages.
In some Guinea pig species, nuclear cataracts have hereditary causes, although metabolic cataracts linked to diabetes remains the most common cause.
A poor diet that lacks enough L-tryptophan represents another common cause for these rodents to develop cataracts. Thus, we cannot stress enough the importance of a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh veggies consumed on a regular basis.
Although a less common eye problem, pea eye is often seen in combination with conjunctival protrusions. Overweight or overfed animals are prone to pea eye.
The good news is that this condition is not painful and doesn’t usually require any urgent actions. However, to avoid further health problems, make sure your pet is regularly weighed and maintains an active lifestyle.
Proper diet and exercising represent the best ways to keep Guinea pigs healthy and away from most health problems, including eye diseases.
Most rodents, as well as rabbits, deal with the problem of ever-growing teeth that need to be constantly trimmed to avoid leading to serious, death-threatening problems later on. Teeth infections usually associated with teeth roots can lead to complications affecting the vision of your pet as well.
If you notice any signs of swelling or protrusion of the eye, you should immediately contact your vet and look for remedies.
Noticeably smaller or absent eyes are caused by a lethal recessive gene that some individuals inherit. Although thousands of years of gene mutations have definitely diminished the likelihood of this recessive gene, this doesn’t mean that some Guinea pigs cannot be born with it.
Generally speaking, animals with microphthalmia are also prone to developing other health problems that will negatively impact their life expectancy, causing them to die younger.
How to prevent eye problems in Guinea pigs
As we previously mentioned, Guinea pigs are notorious for having eye problems but this doesn’t mean some of them cannot be prevented or successfully treated.
One of the easiest ways to properly look after your piggy and ensure it lives a long and healthy life is to maintain a clean living environment. Keep the cage clean by regularly changing the bedding that prevents bacteria from growing near your pet.
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and an active lifestyle are also easy ways to look after your pet’s weight and general health. We suggest opting for specifically made dry foods for Guinea pigs and adding fresh veggies to their daily dietary plans.
A running wheel or an exercise ball are efficient solutions to maintain your pet’s optimum weight and avoid further health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and eye problems.
Another way to prevent eye diseases and properly look after your pet is to pay attention and understand their habits. Look for any changes in appetite or your pet’s eyes and take it to see a vet as soon as something looks suspicious.
Finally, if you choose to keep more than one individual in the same cage, make sure to break any fighting as Guinea pigs have the tendency to attack the eye area more often, leading to severe or permanent damage of the eyes.