If your guinea pig has crusty eyes, it likely means they have an eye infection or something in the environment is disturbing its eyes. Check for other symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing, to discern what may be wrong with your cavy.
What You'll Learn
Guinea pigs are very good at hiding sickness. Since guinea pigs are prey animals, any sign of weakness could be a disaster for them.
Thankfully, there are physical signs that can tell you whether your pet is healthy or should receive medical attention.
For guinea pigs, a crusty eye could mean several things. Whether crusty eyes from a serious upper respiratory infection (URI) or a simple irritation to particles in the air, it’s worrisome for any pet owner to see new physical and behavioral changes in their guinea pig.
Keep in mind: if there is something serious going on with your pet’s health, it’s highly probable that the eyes aren’t the only thing affected (unless the eye experienced specific internal or external trauma).
Why Does My Guinea Pig Have Crusty Eyes?
It’s difficult to determine what might be causing your guinea pig’s crusty eyes. These animals are specifically sensitive to changes in temperature, environment, and other pets. Our list is not exhaustive, but should give you a point of reference in figuring out the source of the issue.
This is a likely suspect of your cavy’s eye condition. If you moved recently and are still sliding boxes around, or you’re reorganizing a room, your guinea pig may react to dust particles in the air. Your pet will likely react by sneezing or coughing.
When you purchase hay from your local pet store or farm, it often contains a lot of dust and dirt from packaging. This may also be the reason your pet has crusty eyes and an occasional cough or sneeze.
Candles and Other Home Scent Items
Guinea pigs can make a room smell bad with how much urine and poop they secrete each day. If you haven’t been able to keep up with routine cleanings, you may have resorted to covering up the smell with a scented candle, wax melt, incense, or other scent-producing items. However, this might be why your guinea pig’s eyes are crusty.
Air Conditioning or Ventilation
If your cavy’s cage is located where a draft may occasionally pass through its cage, your pet may have a cold. Colds can be deadly for guinea pigs, so it’s important to keep your guinea pig out of these drafty areas.
Vitamin C Deficiency
If your cavy has a vitamin C deficiency, it may experience a loss of appetite, weight loss, and lethargic behaviors in addition to crusty eyes. This condition is commonly referred to as “scurvy” and can be fatal to many guinea pigs.
Luckily, treatment can begin immediately with introducing vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruits into their diet.
Upper Respiratory Infection
Guinea pigs are known to hide their illnesses, especially when it comes to those that put them in a weak position.
URIs are fairly common in cavies and can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early on. In general, URIs will need a proper diagnosis from your exotic vet. You can then receive medication and guidance for treatment.
When Should I Take My Guinea Pig to the Vet?
If you notice other signs in addition to crusty eyes such as a crusty or dry nose, changes in your cavy’s behavior, coughing or sneezing, or any combination of these, it might be time to bring your guinea pig in for a professional diagnosis.
At the exotic vet, your clinician will take your cavy’s vitals and assess the situation to the best of their ability. They will then either prescribe medication or ask you to monitor your pet for any worsening conditions.
URIs in guinea pigs are often fatal when realized too late or ignored, so it’s a good idea to spot the signs early on!
What Steps Should I Take?
If you suspect your guinea pig’s eyes are irritated by something in their environment, you can gently wipe crusty bits away with a warm, soft cloth. This should provide relief to them, even if something else may be the original issue.
Removing dust from your hay supply before filling the hay feeder can also prevent unnecessary irritation in your cavy’s living quarters.
If you wonder if your cavy’s diet may be to blame, try introducing more vitamin C-rich vegetables and fruits into their diet as soon as possible.
If you think the room might be the issue, or your pet’s cage is in a compromising location, try moving the cage somewhere where there is no direct airflow from a fan, air conditioner, or heater. In general, cavies thrive between room temperatures of 65-75 degrees.
Ensure that young kids and other pets have very limited access to your guinea pigs and that you monitor playtime when they have access. Illnesses can be transmitted from different species, even humans!
If you’ve tried everything and your pet’s condition doesn’t get better, ask your vet for advice. If you can’t go in for a check-up, a simple phone call inquiring about what to do wouldn’t hurt either.
Be Prepared For the Worst
Guinea pigs are fragile creatures. They can be easily influenced by their environments and other cavies and pets. We understand and appreciate your concern for your pet’s health. By reading about the signs early on, you are becoming better prepared if you notice them in your guinea pig.
Though we would like to hope that nothing serious happens to your guinea pig, it’s always better to assume the worst and then be pleasantly surprised when everything is okay.
Of course, all animals will react differently to their environments, diets, and playmates. All we can do as their caretakers is to love them, treat them well, and notice when something might be wrong. (Cuddling is always a plus, too.)
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