A guinea pig will naturally secrete a white, milky discharge from healthy eyes. The cavy then spreads that fluid over the face and performs a cleaning behavior. The habit may be done several times per day and is a normal part of grooming. But there are several conditions that can cause the eyes to become diseased, and it’s helpful to be able to distinguish some of them.
Upper respiratory infections can cause ‘crusty eyes’, a condition in which a small, crystalline substance is produced. It’s often accompanied by mucous from the nose and a reduction in food intake. The cavy may be less active, though this can be hard to detect since they’re often quiet for long periods. Treatment with antibiotics can easily clear the condition, but a diagnosis and prescription from the vet is necessary first.
Cataracts are a normal part of aging. The eyes become cloudy and appear bluish. But when the condition occurs early in life it is often the result of genetic influences. It can also result from contracting diabetes. One piece of evidence for this is a rapid onset of the clouding and color change. Vision can be substantially reduced. Have your cavy checked.
In newborns, entropian may occur. This is a turning of the eyelashes inward, with resulting irritation. Eyes may become white and a corneal ulcer may develop. Some breeds, such as Teddies and Texels, are more prone to this than others. Try to gently turn the eyelash outward and cleanse the eyes with a sterile eye lubricant.
A lacrimal gland located near the base of the eye can become inflamed, producing a condition called cherry eye. The term is borrowed from a condition that occurs in dogs, where it means something slightly different. Swelling and pain results.
A similar condition called Pea Eye can occur. This is a protrusion of the conjunctival sac, but the condition isn’t generally painful. Swelling is limited to the corners of the eye. Treatment isn’t typically called for.
An inflamed conjunctiva should be treated with an anti-inflammatory, such as flurbiprofen. Follow up with an antibiotic like gentamycin may be called for. A vet visit is in order in all these cases.
Beyond the diseases or genetic conditions that may cause cavy eye problems, normal activity may result in injury. Typically when only one eye is affected, and becomes watery or cloudy, injury is the likely cause.
The injury may be from an attack or simply due to a bit of hay getting stuck in the eye. It may be possible to manually remove particles with sterilized tweezers, but extreme caution is necessary. A corneal abrasion is possible, or the result may be infection. If the condition doesn’t clear itself within a day or so, a call or visit to the vet is in order.
Guinea Pig eyesight is considerably less acute than many other mammals. Nevertheless, they do use them for foraging and predator detection. Any impact to the eye can result in pain, infection and may lead to even worse problems. Treat all cavy eye conditions seriously.