There are a plethora of diseases that can affect the eyes of guinea pigs but some are seen more often than others in the vet clinic. It is important to familiarize yourself with the potential eye infections and problems your guinea pig may develop so you can help keep them healthy and pain free.
Corneal Ulcers in Guinea Pigs
Sometimes eyes get scratched or irritated by hay, hair, or even after a struggle with another guinea pigThese scratches or irritations can cause an injury on a layer of your guinea pig's eye known as a corneal ulcer.
An ulcer is a painful defect and may cause a bit of cloudiness or redness to the eye. Your cavy may paw at the hurt eye, keep their injured eye closed, or even rub it on the ground. The pain may cause them to stop eating and even develop ileus. Corneal ulcers may be treated with special prescription eye ointments from your exotics vet. Some of these ointments are antibiotics and some are made specifically to heal ulcers. If the ulcer is really bad or hasn't healed after the use of some medications your vet may draw some of your guinea pig's blood, centrifuge it, and use the serum that is produced as eye drops to help the ulcer heal. If the ulcer still hasn't healed, a grid keratotomy may need to be performed on the eye to encourage healing. This procedure is done under anesthesia and promotes healing.
Guinea Pig Eye Infections
If your guinea pig's eye gets irritated or exposed to excessive amounts of bacteria or fungal spores it can get infected.
Bacterial and fungal infections can affect one or both eyes and need to be treated with the appropriate antibacterial or antifungal medications. Your cavy may have hair loss around the infected eye, redness (conjunctivitis), discharge, swelling, and even keep this eye shut. Your exotics vet may choose to treat the eye without obtaining a culture first but if the infection does not resolve, or if you want to do the best thing possible for your guinea pig, a bacterial and/or fungal culture should be obtained.
The culture will tell your vet exactly what bacteria or fungus is growing around the eye and will allow them to pick the correct treatment for your pet. If your guinea pig has a lot of discharge from the eye and it is crusting shut you can use a warm, damp, cloth to gently clean it until you can see your vet. Sometimes just cleaning out the eye makes a world of difference to your guinea pig.
Guinea pigs have incisors (front teeth) with roots that can grow into the nasal-lacrimal duct (a pathway between the nose and the eyes) and cause their eyes to weep. An easy test to see if there is a blocked nasal-lacrimal duct is to use fluorescein eye stain and wait to see if it leaks out of your guinea pig's nose. Normal ducts flow through the nose and allow drainage but if that duct is blocked or clogged excessive drainage will occur from the eye, just like a clogged pipe.
Tumors in Guinea Pigs
Sometimes tumors will develop behind the eyes of guinea pigs. These tumors can cause an eye to bulge, swell, and be very uncomfortable. Sometimes radiographs (x-rays) will show a suspected tumor on the skull of your guinea pig and your vet may want to send the radiographs off to be read by a radiologist to confirm it.
But if nothing shows on an x-ray an MRI may be recommended if your vet still suspects a tumor.
Many other problems can arise with your pet guinea pig's eyes but regardless of the issue, if you think something is wrong with your little friend make an appointment with your exotics vet as soon as possible. Ileus, which is life threatening, can develop quickly in an unhappy guinea pig.