Pink Eye in Guinea Pigs

Published Apr. 20, 2023
Guinea pig eye

In This Article


What Is Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs?

Conjunctivitis or pink eye is a common condition in guinea pigs. It is caused by an infection or due to low vitamin C levels. Guinea pigs are unable to synthesize vitamin C like people, so if they are not supplemented with it daily, they can develop scurvy. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation or reddening of the mucous membrane lining the eyelids and the sclera (the white portion of the eye).

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs

  • Reddening of mucous membrane inside eyelids

  • Repeated pawing at face

  • Clear to thick white discharge

  • Symptoms can be in one eye or both eyes.

  • Blinking or holding eyes closed more often.

  • Conjunctival chemosis (swelling of the conjunctiva and eyelids)

  • Keratoconjunctivitis or inflammation of the conjunctiva and the cornea (clear section of the eye that is over the iris and pupil)

Causes of Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs

  • Infectious bacterial diseases: Chlamydia caviae, Listeria, Salmonella, Bordetella

  • Too much dust in the enclosure from poor-quality hay, which is too brittle, smells musty, or no longer green in color and has turned yellow or brown is not of good quality

  • Low vitamin C

  • Foreign body in eye such as hay

  • Secondary condition to dry eye, dry eye is often not a curable disease and requires lifelong management

How Veterinarians Diagnose Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs

Your veterinarian will perform an ophthalmic examination using an ophthalmoscope to look at the chambers of the eye including the retina. A Schirmer tear test can look for dry eyes via measuring the tear production. Fluorescein stains of the cornea may also be used to look for ulcers or any corneal defect.

Your veterinarian might recommend taking a culture of the eye discharge to look for bacterial growth and or run a polymerase chain reaction to look for chlamydia using a conjunctival scraping. Further workup of the eye could include skull X-rays, CT scan to look for any lesions or dental disease, or a nasolacrimal duct flush where the tear duct is flushed to make sure it is open and to clear out any clogged debris from inflammation. Dacrocystitis (inflammation of the nasolacrimal sac that produces tears) is uncommon in guinea pigs but can happen.

Your veterinarian may ask you the following:

  • What kind of hay you are feeding your piggie

  • If you supplement with vitamin C

  • How often do you clean his enclosure

  • When the symptoms started or first noticed

  • If you have noticed any other abnormalities

  • How the issue has worsened since symptoms were noticed

Treatment of Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs

Treatment in guinea pigs will depend on the severity of the condition and the cause of pink eye. Treatment can involve topical eye drops, oral medications, supplemental vitamin C, and any other medications needed to treat the specific cause of the disease.

  • Broad spectrum topical antibiotics like tetracycline and/or oral antibiotics like doxycycline

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory eyedrops

  • Saline flush to clean out any thick discharge daily.

  • Vitamin C supplementation (given daily)

Medications for Pink Eye in Guinea Pigs

Your veterinarian will recommend the best eye wash such as saline or ophthalmic gel like Puralube for your guinea pig based on their diagnosis. Do not use any human eye wash or eye gel without confirming with your veterinarian. Human eyedrops can disrupt a guinea pig’s gut microbiome if any is ingested, and some ingredients in the eyedrops could be irritating to your guinea pig.

How to Apply Eye Drops to Guinea Pigs

Follow directions on the eye drop medication carefully and contact your veterinarian if you have any questions on how to apply. Typically, eye drops can be applied following the below steps:

  1. Gently clean away any debris around the eye with warm water and a washcloth.

  2. Place your fingers under the guinea pig’s jaw with your thumb on top of the head to gently hold the eye open. Be careful not to obstruct their breathing.

  3. Use the thumb holding the head to gently pull up the upper eyelid.

  4. Hold the eye drops close to the eye about an inch away. Do not touch the bottle to the eye surface because this will contaminate the drops.

  5. Squeeze the prescribed amount of eye drops onto the eyeball aiming for the center of the eye.

  6. Release the head once the drops have landed on the eye. Your pig will blink, and this will disperse the eyedrops.

  7. Properly close and store the eyedrops.

It is okay if your piggie shakes their head or paws at the eye after drops are administered; you do not need to administer more eye drops if they do this. Offer your pig lots of praise after the administration and offer them a treat so that they can positively associate this experience and be more compliant in the future.

Recovery and Management of Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs

Typically, most uncomplicated eye issues in guinea pigs resolve in about 2 weeks. More complicated issues like dry eye could require lifelong treatment with eyedrops. If the eye is infected from a foreign body or if the guinea pig is suffering also from pneumonia treatment can be about 4-6 weeks of antibiotics and supplemental nutrition with hand feeding formula.

If left untreated, some conditions like Chlamydia caviae can progress to pneumonia, weight loss, decreased appetite, and even death.

Prevention of Pink Eye in Guinea Pigs

Steps you can take to prevent conjunctivitis in guinea pigs include:

Contact your primary veterinarian immediately if you notice any abnormal symptoms around your guinea pig’s eyes.

Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs FAQs

How do I know if my guinea pig has pink eye?

If your guinea pig has increased eye discharge, redness under the eyelids, is closing the eye, and pawing at the eye, pink eye is a possibility. Your veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist can confirm and diagnose pink eye.

Can you catch pink eye from a guinea pig?

Chlamydia caviae has the potential to be zoonotic, meaning you could theoretically get it from your guinea pig. It is very important to take your pig to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Wash your hands before and after handling your pig to prevent any possible spread.

How can I treat my guinea pig's eye at home?

While you are waiting for your guinea pig to be seen, make sure to supplement daily with vitamin C, and keep the enclosure clean and dust free. Guinea pigs have a sensitive gastrointestinal tract, so it is important not to treat your guinea pig at home and only use eye drops recommended or prescribed by your veterinarian.


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Featured Image: White


Melissa Witherell, DVM


Melissa Witherell, DVM


Dr. Melissa Witherell is originally from Connecticut. She attended undergrad at Fordham University to study Biological Sciences. After that...

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