Eye Infections in Guinea Pigs

An eye infection can be very painful for your guinea pig. If left untreated it can lead to temporary or permanent blindness.

There are many causes for an eye infection. Your guinea pig will likely try to disguise symptoms so it’s important to thoroughly examine them and if you notice any change in their routine to speak with your vet.

Causes of Eye Infections in Guinea Pigs

Just like if your guinea pig has an ear infection, the causes of an eye infection can be divided into two main categories: infectious & non-infectious.

Infectious causes include bacteria, viruses, fungi and other disease-causing pathogens.

Non-infectious causes include poor living conditions, injury or lack of vitamin C.

The most common causes of eye infections are:

  1. Allergies – Your guinea pig may suffer from allergies or show signs of allergic reaction when eating certain foods or experiencing a new environment. If your guinea pig has very watery eyes it’s likely the start of an eye infection.
  2. Conjunctivitis – Also known as pink eye, conjunctivitis occurs due to a bacterial infection from poor living conditions. If left untreated it can badly damage the eye. Pink eye can also be caused by other things such as a virus or fungi. There will be persistent discharge from the eye and the eye may look swollen.
  3. Ulcers – An ulcer on the eye, also known as corneal ulcer, is an open sore on your cornea which is the thing layer over the iris in your guinea pig’s eye. These are likely caused by chemicals or other irritants entering the eye. Your guinea pig will likely keep their eye closed for extended periods of time and you may see discharge.
  4. Injury or Trauma – It’s not uncommon for guinea pigs to fight or be physical, especially if you have two males in one cage. Any horse play can lead to an injury in the eye or potential foreign object entering your guinea pig’s eye leading to infection.
  5. Dryness – Your guinea pig’s eyes can get dry due to low humidity in the environment or dehydration. You can avoid this by using eye drops or making sure you’re placing your guinea pig in the best area.
  6. Poor nutrition – Guinea pigs that lack vitamin C, A, and E in their diet are prone to eye infections. These vitamins are very important for the health of the eyes and immunity. The addition of fruits and green and leafy vegetables can help lower the chances of eye infection in guinea pigs.
  7. Foreign body – If a foreign body is stuck in the eye of a guinea pig it can cause a bad eye infection. Foreign bodies include specs of dust, dirt, hay, straw, or any other object laying in the surroundings. Never try to remove it with the help of a metal object or something like cotton buds because these can further damage the eye. Instead, use a soft cloth that is soaked in water to minimize irritation or talk to your vet.
  8. Dental problems – The oral cavity of the guinea is connected to its eye socket through special compartments in the skull known as sinuses. These sinuses allow the pathogens easy access to the eyes. If your guinea pig has a bacterial infection in the mouth it can travel to the eyes if proper treatment is avoided.
  9. Upper respiratory tract infections – Similar to a dental infection upper respiratory infections can also infect the eyes through sinuses in the skull. Eyes can become watery and sticky in such situations.
  10. Tumors – These abnormal growths near the eye or on the eyelids can increase the vulnerability of the eyes to infection. If you suspect a tumor or abnormal growth around the eye of your guinea pig take it to a pet clinic for removal or treatment.

Types of Eye Discharge in Guinea Pigs

There are four types of discharge you may see in or around your guinea pig’s eyes. The discharge itself should be thoroughly looked at to help determine what type of injury your guinea pig has.

If you’re unsure what it is but you do see discharge you should speak with your vet immediately as untreated problems can get severe really quickly.

The types of discharge you may see are:

  • Transparent – This type of discharge usually happens from allergies, injury or other minor infections. It’s mostly composed of water and you’ll see your guinea pig’s eyes watering quite a bit.
  • Mucoid – This type of discharge is a bit more complex, sticky and looks like mucus. This discharge means you likely have an infection starting.
  • Purulent – This type of discharge can be very alarming to guinea pig owners. It is the result of a bacterial infection and you will start to see pus form around your guinea pig’s eye. You will need to seek medical attention immediately to avoid eye damage.
  • Serosanguinous – This type of discharge isn’t as common as the others but it will be streaks of blood mixed in a yellowish fluid. If you see this discharge you’ll want to get to your vet immediately as it may mean eye damage due to issues with your guinea pig’s blood vessels in their eyes.

How Do Most Guinea Pigs Get Eye Infections?

Below are the most common predisposing factors to your guinea pig getting an eye infection. Keep in mind this list is not every single way but just the most common reported methods.

  • A poor cage environment can be an ideal place for the growth of bacteria and several other disease-causing pathogens.
  • Urine accumulation in the enclosure can increase the concentration of ammonia in the air which can increase the chances of eye infections in guinea pigs.
  • Poor nutrition of your guinea pig.
  • A dusty environment can increase the chances of allergy. 
  • A confined enclosure can increase the risk of optic injury in guinea pigs.

Symptoms of Eye Infections in Guinea Pigs

The following are the most common signs of an eye infection:

  • Discharge from the eyes 
  • Severe irritation in the eye
  • Fever in case of complicated bacterial infections 
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Crusts of dried mucus around the eyes 
  • Cloudiness in the eye 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Constant closure of the eye
  • Lethargy

How to Diagnose an Eye Infection

An eye infection can likely be diagnosed based on some of the basic signs you will see during routine care of your guinea pig.

The most noticeable sign of an eye infection is if your guinea pig has some form of discharge coming out of their eye.

If your guinea pig is showing irritation in their eyes, closing their eyes or their eyes start to swell you’ll want to see a vet immediately. Most of the time the vet will be able to diagnose based on a simple exam alone but they may require blood tests or an eye culture for something more serious.

Treatment for an Eye Infection

Depending on the type of eye infection and its severity a veterinarian might suggest the following treatments:

  • Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory eye drops (Dosage depends upon the severity of infection)
  • Eye ointments
  • In case of complex infection, I/V or I/M administration of antibiotics may be required
  • If your guinea pig has stopped eating and is severely dehydrated I/V fluids can also be administered by a veterinarian
  • Anti-allergic can also be given in case of allergic reactions 
  • In case of major injuries plus complicated infection, a veterinarian may go for enucleation (surgical removal of the whole eye). This is important to save the life of your pet because treatment is not rewarding in such cases and infection can become generalized (spread to the whole body). 

Never administer any drug on your own. Some drugs require proper dosage and can be lethal if overdosed.

Prognosis of an Eye Infection in Your Guinea Pigs

Generally eye infections go away on their own and have a short prognosis if you take good care of your pet and follow the treatment protocols as advised by your veterinarian.

In most cases, an eye infection will go away within 7 to 14 days but in extreme cases it may take longer.

Home Remedies for a Guinea Pig Eye Infection

You should avoid any home remedies for an eye infection as you may end up causing more damage to your pet’s eye and you should talk to your vet immediately.

Most basic eye infections will go away with time so it’s best to just wait it out and make sure your guinea pig is getting adequate amounts of vitamin C and other nutrients. Try to put more leafy greens and fruits in their diet.

If you can’t reach your vet you can use a soft cloth to help pull away any discharge or pus that may be coming out of their eye but do not put anything in their eye. Try to make your guinea pig as comfortable as possible.

Article Sources & Research

  1. Common Eye Problems in Guinea Pigs and What You Can Do. (2022, March 12). The Spruce Pets. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.thesprucepets.com/guinea-pig-eye-diseases-1238203
  2. P. (2022, May 12). Guinea Pig Eye Problems: Causes and Treatment. Petco. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.petco.com/content/petco/PetcoStore/en_US/pet-services/resource-center/health-wellness/guinea-pig-eye-problems-causes-and-treatment.html
  3. Waring, L. (2021, April 1). My guinea pig has a sore eye – what should I do? Vet Help Direct. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://vethelpdirect.com/vetblog/2021/04/03/my-guinea-pig-has-a-sore-eye-what-should-i-do/