You may have noticed your senior guinea pig’s eyes have gradually become cloudy over the years. Simply put, a cataract is opacity of the lens the eye. Cataracts are fairly common in older guinea pigs. They can also be genetic and show up in younger pigs, although it is less likely. Any guinea pig can develop cataracts, although anecdotal evidence suggests Abyssinians may be more prone to developing them later in life. In most cases, cataracts are no biggie.
What Causes Cataracts in Guinea Pigs?
Cataracts can be hereditary, but in most cases they are just a result of aging. When cataracts appear in older guinea pigs, they often develop gradually in one eye and the other follows suit within a few months. Quick onset of cataracts is more concerning. This can signify diabetes or trauma. Sometimes there is no known cause at all, but cataracts on their own aren’t a serious health concern and don’t cause the guinea pig pain.
Cataracts aren’t serious, but there are a host of other types of eye problems in guinea pigs that can look similar. If your guinea pig has watery or crusty eyes, there may be something more going on. This can indicate a bacterial infection or injury that might need prescription antibiotics. (Note that milky white discharge produced during grooming is totally normal.) Bulging or receding eyes also should prompt a vet visit. These changes can point to tooth problems, dehydration, and underlying illness.
Are Guinea Pigs with Cataracts Blind?
Guinea pigs don’t have great vision to begin with, so cataracts rarely impact quality of life. Many humans with the condition describe it as looking through a veil. In time, your guinea pig’s vision might get worse, but they tend to adapt pretty well. In fact, it’s not easy to tell if he can’t see as well as he used to.
You might notice your guinea pig acting less sure about his surroundings after a fresh cage clean, moving more slowly, or struggling with obstacles in unfamiliar territory. Blind guinea pigs may startle more easily when touched if they cannot hear or see you approaching. Until guinea pig glasses are a thing, just keep his food/water areas and furniture/accessories where he is used to.
Do Cataracts Require Treatment?
Don’t worry; eye surgery is generally reserved only for cases of severe injury/infection. There is no need to do anything special for a guinea pig with simple cataracts, aside from keeping their environment consistent if they start to lose their vision. If you’re unsure if your guinea pig’s cloudy eye is a cataract or an injury, an exotic vet will be able to help. Any sudden changes should also warrant a visit to the doc.