Red eyes in guinea pigs are mainly caused by albinism, eye infections, body disorders, and other diseases which we will focus on in the rest of this article.
Unlike humans who have diverse eye colors, most animals will adopt few if not one eye color. Most guinea pigs will have brown-colored eyes either light brown or a dark brown similar to honey.
However, at times you might see guinea pigs with red eyes. Is this normal or is it something not to ignore? Well, read on to find out this and much more.
What is Albinism in Guinea Pigs?
Albinism is a biological condition caused by the shortage or lack of the enzyme tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is responsible for melanin production in the cavy which results in the color distribution in the eyes, fur, and skin. Production of melanin in insufficient amounts causes the variation of color from the normal one.
How to Detect Albinism in Guinea Pigs
Since albinism is a genetic condition, cavies are born with it and may have either partial or full albinism. For full albinism: the cavy will have both red eyes and white fur.
On the other hand, those with partial albinism will have one of the characteristics. Partial albinism is brought about by the interbreeding of albino breeds with other normal breeds.
Are Albino Guinea Pigs Healthy?
Albino cavies are equally as healthy as normal ones and will have a normal life span. However, they are more sensitive to light and heat which may cause the following:
Heatstroke: Since their skin lacks pigmentation, they are more prone to heat resulting in heatstroke.
Heatstroke causes their body to overheat when exposed to high temperatures. It is experienced when their temperatures rise above 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius). Therefore, you should reduce the amount of time you expose them to sunlight.
Sunburns: Guinea pigs will experience sunburns in areas that are not covered with fur. Always provide shade areas where they can stay away or apply sun cream before exposing them to sunlight.
Their eyes are more sensitive to light which may cause stress making them uncomfortable.
Ideally, keep your albino pet in light-dimmed areas. Additionally, when left outside have shade areas when they can seek shelter when there is too much sunlight.
Do Red Eyes Affect Your Pet’s Vision?
Since some albino cavies have red eyes, will the red eyes see the same as normal ones? Well, the answer is no; such pets will have slightly limited vision than normal breeds.
The eye pigments help in normal vision and having little will hence affect vision. Therefore, you will find them staring at things for a long time as they try to understand them.
Does Albinism Affect Personality in Guinea Pigs?
Most people will perceive pets with red eyes as fierce and aggressive. However, the eye color of guinea pigs will not affect their behavior and temperament unless they have no hearing. Guinea pigs may have aggression whether or not they have red eyes (aggression is a matter of personality and not eye color).
Piggies with albinism are more susceptible to losing their hearing. Once they do, they tend to be uneasy and nervous when in contact with objects or people.
Red Eyes for Body Disorders
As mentioned earlier, red eyes can be the result of disorders formed before birth. This disorder is the lethal white syndrome which is determined by the parents of your pet. It is caused by the pet inheriting replicates of the same gene (the roan gene).
Such guinea pigs will have both red eyes and white fur. The lethal white syndrome is detected right from birth and such pets are commonly referred to as pink-eyed whites (PEWs). This is because their eye can also resemble a pinkish color.
Albinism and Lethal White Syndrome (What’s the Difference?)
The lethal white syndrome might seem similar to albinism since both can have the same symptoms: red eyes and white fur. However, how are these two different? Albino cavies will have good health while PEWs are born with a weak immune system and will display the following too:
1. Poor digestion of food and nutrients absorption.
2. Malformed teeth.
3. Complete or partial blindness.
4. Partial or complete deafness.
5. Small or missing eyes.
Furthermore, such guinea pigs have a reduced life expectancy of three years compared to the normal life expectancy of four to eight years.
Eye Infection in Cavies
Your pet may be born with perfect eyes which will change color at some point. In such a case, the eye infection is the cause. Such infections can be bacterial, fungal, or viral.
These infections include conjunctivitis, glaucoma, pneumonia, and corneal ulcer. So how do you differentiate one from the other? We focus on each at a time.
Guinea pigs suffering from pneumonia will have either pink or red eyes. Moreover, they will have a fever, nose discharge, breathing difficulties, appetite loss, and sneezing.
Corneal Ulcer in Guinea Pigs
The corneal ulcer is also called keratitis and is caused by the guinea pig having wounds on the cornea. The cornea is the part that covers the iris and pupil of the eye. Apart from red eyes, your pet may display the following signs:
a. The cavy may stop eating due to pain caused by the sore cornea.
b. The eyelids will swell.
c. The guinea pig may keep its eyes closed.
d. Pus discharge from the eyes.
e. Your pet may rub its eyes on the ground.
Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs
Conjunctivitis is caused by both respiratory infections and bacterial infections. It causes the swelling of the eye’s outermost layer. Not only will conjunctivitis manifest in red eyes but also the following:
1. Inflammation of the eyes.
2. Watery eyes.
3. Pus discharge from the eyes.
4. Sticky eyelids caused by the dry discharge.
Eye infections will share symptoms with other diseases that affect guinea pigs. When your guinea pig is infected, check with the veterinarian to establish the problem and get treatment.
The Final Thoughts
Guinea pigs will have red eyes due to several reasons. Some may be lethal while others are not. As a pet owner, it is essential to establish your cavy’s specific problem and find a solution.