Why Does My Cavy Have Runny Eyes? Everything you Need to Know About Guinea Pig Eye Infections

Your guinea pig’s eyes can tell you a lot about its overall health. It’s normal for guinea pigs to have a milky discharge from the eyes, but red, runny or sore eyes could be a sign of guinea pig eye infection or more serious health issues. Knowing the signs and symptoms of common guinea pig eye infections from conjunctivitis to upper respiratory infections and dental issues will help you identify the problem and get the appropriate treatment fast.

What Are The Common Symptoms Of Eye Infections In Guinea Pigs

Being prey animals, guinea pigs tend to hide any signs of illness, making diagnosing and treating any ailments all the more difficult. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that your cavy’s eyes can tell you a lot about its health if you know what signs to look out for. Regular health checks will also help you spot any problems before they get worse.

What are the symptoms of an eye infection?

It’s normal for cavies to have a milky discharge from their eyes, after all, as the experts explain, it’s a normal part of their cleaning routine. 

  • Runny or watery eyes
  • Yellow or green discharge
  • ‘Cloudy’ or dull-looking eyes
  • Closed eyes
  • Crusty eyes
  • Eye redness, inflamed or sore looking skin around the eye area
  • Protruding or receding eye

Important – Not all eye discharges are unhealthy. If you notice a white, milky fluid around your guinea pigs’ eyes, don’t be alarmed. This is absolutely normal and is an essential part of the grooming process.

What Could Be The Causes Of An Eye Infection?

Guinea pigs are prone to eye infections throughout their life, and some are more serious than others. Knowing what to look out for will help you identify the problem and get the best possible treatment for your piggy.

Conjunctivitis

Also called pink eye or red eye, conjunctivitis is a fairly common eye infection in guinea pigs. It is caused by two kinds of bacteria, namely Streptococcus and Bordetella. It can also be the result of an allergic reaction to something in your guinea pig’s environment. Other associated symptoms include hair loss around the eye area, swelling and redness and abnormal discharge.

Depending on the type of infection, treatment may include antibiotic eye drops or tablets. While the condition itself isn’t serious, it could be a sign of underlying health issues, which is why it’s crucial to get your piggy to the vet as soon as possible.

Important – Always wash your hands after handling your guinea pig with conjunctivitis. Some strains are contagious and can be passed onto humans!

Corneal ulcers

Corneal ulcers are also common in guinea pigs. These can be caused by hay poke, sharp objects in the cage, or as a result of a fight or an over-enthusiastic grooming session. This condition is extremely painful for your piggy and can affect its eating. Signs that your guinea pig may be suffering from this type of eye infection include:

  • Cloudiness of the eye
  • Red or inflamed eye
  • Pawing at the eye or rubbing it on the ground
  • Partial or fully closed eye
  • Abnormal discharge

If you suspect your guinea pig has a corneal ulcer, it’s best to get to the vet immediately. They will prescribe an eye ointment for the ulcer as well as an antibiotic to treat any secondary infections.

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

If your guinea pig has crusty eyes, it could be a sign of an upper respiratory infection or URI. It’s usually accompanied by other symptoms, including:

  • Conjunctivitis
  • Abnormal eye discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Because URIs pose a serious health threat to your guinea pigs, it’s essential to get them treated as soon as possible. Your vet will recommend antibiotics as well as eye ointments.

Dental problems

As odd as it sounds, dental problems can also cause eye infections in guinea pigs. This is because the roots of premolars and molars are located near the tear ducts, which, if infected, can affect the eye. Symptoms often include watery eyes or a cloudy discharge, as well as a loss of appetite, weight loss and an increase in salivation.

If left untreated, it can lead to a condition known as ileus, which can be life-threatening.

guinea pig eye infections

Cataracts

Although more common in older guinea pigs, cataracts can also be a sign of diabetes in younger cavies. The condition affects the cornea, preventing light from passing through. Not only does it make the eye look milky, but it can also lead to a loss of vision and eventually blindness.

Being prey animals, guinea pigs tend to hide any signs of illness, making diagnosing and treating any ailments all the more difficult. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop cataracts from forming, and there’s no reversing the process, but they aren’t painful and don’t affect your senior piggy’s quality of life.

Injury

Whether they’re playing, getting into a scuffle with another piggy or burrowing into their hay, guinea pigs can also hurt their eyes. The most common sign of an eye injury is a cloudy eye, You may also notice a cut, abrasion or even a puncture.

If you can get your cavy to sit still long enough, look if there’s any hay caught in the eye – this can be removed with a small set of tweezers. 

However, if it’s cloudy and looks like the eyeball is sinking or is swollen, it’s crucial to get your guinea pig to the vet as quickly as possible.

How Do You Prevent Eye Infections In Guinea Pigs?

Most eye infections result from your piggy’s environment and can be avoided with the correct care. Let’s take a look at what you can do to prevent the most common problems.

Keep your guinea pig’s cage clean

Conjunctivitis or pink eye is usually caused by bacteria in or around your cavy’s cage. To keep infections at bay, you must regularly clean your pet’s enclosure. Replace soiled, or wet hay immediately and always use a pet-friendly disinfectant when you do a deep clean.

Check your guinea pig’s bedding

Hay poke is one of the most common causes of eye infections in guinea pigs and is easily preventable. Guinea pigs love to burrow, and if the bedding is too hard or has sharp ends, it can cause unnecessary injuries. Always make sure the bedding you use is suitable for your furry friends.

Avoid unnecessary injuries

To avoid fights breaking out, make sure you pair your cavies correctly. For example, if you have two or more guinea pigs, make sure the males are neutered.Aslo, keeping your guinea pigs in a large enclosure will give them the space they need away from their cage-mates.

Unnecessary injuries can also be prevented by keeping guinea pigs and rabbits in separate hutches. As adorable as these creatures are, they’re not meant to live in the same space. Read more about it here

Do regular health checks

Quality time with your piggy is really important. Not only does it help you build a better bond with your pet, but it also gives you the chance to do regular health checks. As soon as you notice an eye infection, we recommend getting your guinea pig to the vet to rule out any serious health issues.

How Do You Treat An Eye Infection In A Guinea Pig?

Unfortunately, eye infections in guinea pigs are pretty common and not always that easy to detect. More worrying is they can often be a sign of a more serious health issue. If your cavy has sore eyes, it’s best to get it to the vet as soon as possible.

For mild infections, antibiotic eye drops, ointments or tablets will be prescribed. In the case of a more serious issue, your vet will carry out the necessary tests and discuss possible treatment options with you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Guinea Pig Eye Infections

We’ve rounded up the most frequently asked questions we receive from our readers about guinea pig eye infections and put them together in one easy to read section. Carry on reading to find out everything you need to know about your piggy’s eyes.

Is it normal for my guinea pig to have discharge from its eyes?

It’s absolutely normal for your guinea pig to have a milky white discharge from its eyes. This helps with the grooming process when your cavy cleans its face.

What do a healthy guinea pig’s eyes look like?

Signs that your cavy is healthy and well include shiny and bright eyes with an occasional milky discharge. Cloudy eyes, inflamed or runny eyes are a sign something’s not right, and you need to get your furry friend to the vet.

How do I know if my guinea pig has an eye infection?

Unfortunately, eye infections in guinea pigs are somewhat common. Symptoms that something’s wrong include pink or red eyes, swelling around the eye area, as well as a green or yellow discharge or a crusty buildup around the eyes.

Depending on the seriousness of the infection, you can try to treat it with your piggy first aid kit. However, we need to stress that this is only a temporary intervention, and we recommend getting your cavy to the vet to prevent further damage. 

Can I use my eye drops to treat my guinea pig’s infection?

Absolutely not! Other than gently cleaning your guinea pig’s eyes with warm water, we suggest you ask your vet for the correct treatment.

Why do some people call the crusty buildup ‘eye boogers’?

We’re not quite sure why some people refer to the crusty discharge around a guinea pig’s eyes as ‘eye boogers’. It could be that the dried mucus looks similar to the crusty buildup around a toddler’s nose!

To Finish Off

Guinea pigs are prone to eye infections, and while some like conjunctivitis aren’t considered serious, you should still get it checked out. More often than not, sore, watery, cloudy or crusty eyes are signs of an underlying health issue such as upper respiratory infections, diabetes, dental problems or an injury.

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