Eye injuries in the guinea pig: foreign body entrapment

Posted in Medical at 7:33 am by ACR&S

Last night I noticed that Chester, one of our Sanctuary piggies, was squinting his right eye. He had seemed fine 24 hours previously.  Closer examination revealed reddish discharge and a matte, foggy area in the cornea, consistent with an eye injury. Our last box of hay contained a number of very stemmy bits, so I wasn’t terribly surprised by this type of injury.

Guinea pigs are surprisingly prone to eye injuries, especially those caused by foreign bodies. We house them in a world filled with dry particulate matter – wood chip bedding, dusty hay, etc – and it’s quite common for these materials to cause minor eye trauma.  A pig owner should always be on the lookout for discharge, crustiness, or abrasions on the surface of the eye itself. [For more information, visit the Guinea Lynx page on Eyes.]

It’s useful to have a bottle of sterile saline eye drops on hand to rinse an eye if a tiny particle of hay or bedding gets in it – that’s usually quite minor. However, if there’s any cloudiness in the cornea or sign of actual injury (including red, bloody discharge), a vet visit is essential. If the cornea has been damaged, the eye requires protective drops or ointments until it heals, and only a vet can determine if this is the case.

In Chester’s case, I’ve seen enough of these to know that he had an abrasion injury and he needed immediate vet treatment. We headed off to our emergency vet, the wonderful Dr. Koeppl at the Madison Emergency Clinic for Animals. I expected this to be a simple poke-type injury from the stemmy hay, but to my surprise, the examination found a bit of hay entrapped underneath the eyelid, which I had not seen on my own examination. Dr Koeppl tried to remove it with a cotton swab, but resistance showed that it was possibly partly embedded. The end of the hay was raised off of the eye’s surface, so Dr. Koeppl was able to grasp it with tweezers. It ended up being not just a small piece of hay, but a full three and three-quarter inch-long strand, which had been wrapped around and around under the eyelids. Dr. Koeppl expressed amazement and recorded the incident for posterity:


Yes, that entire piece of hay was hidden behind the eyelids.

Hay has sharp edges and there was significant abrasion to both the cornea and the underside of the lids. Chester seemed to immediately feel much better, becoming much calmer and laying down in his carrier for some much-needed rest. He’s on Metacam for discomfort and antibiotic ophthalmic ointment every 4-6 hours to help heal the corneal injury. I certainly am glad I saw something was wrong as soon as we did – if I hadn’t noticed, the pain might have led him to claw his own eye out! We go back to our regular vet in 3-4 days for another corneal stain to check how it’s healing. Send Chester your best wishes, and give your emergency vet a hug!


  1. Celia said,

    March 31, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    This is so scary- I watch/worry all the time as the pigs pile into their hay and surface covered with dust and little bits on their noggins- but seeing that really disturbs me.

    Lucky Chester to have Susan’s watchful eyes safeguarding his!

    Now, I’m going to anger some of my little friends by conducting impromptu eye exams- it will make me feel better anyway!

  2. Jenn said,

    April 2, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    I think it’s just that pair — he lives with a cute sow named Sadie, who we found turning blue with her head jammed into the hayrack. While we conducted impromptu surgery at 2:30am with a pair of pliers to get her out she enthusiastically stretched and grunted to try and reach the last strand.

  3. Merc said,

    January 7, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Help! I’ve had my guinea piggy for only a month (she’s my first pet!) and she has a tiny piece of hay in her right eye. It’s about a cm long and there’s no cloudiness or discharge or anything and her eyes seem perfectly fine, but should I be worried????? I don’t know what to do! Will it eventually come out on its own?

  4. ACR&S said,

    January 7, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Yikes, poor piggy! Unfortunately it may NOT come out on it’s own – see Pinball’s story as an example of what can happen if an eye injury is left untreated! You need to get her to a vet ASAP and have the hay removed before it seriously damages or infects her eye.

  5. Hasina said,

    June 8, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    My poor tinas eye is infected. Thought she had just poked herself. Now the eye is completely covered with goo and stuff sticking 2 it. Is it 2 late have her treated?

  6. ACR&S said,

    June 9, 2010 at 7:32 am

    It’s not too late for Tina, but get her into a vet ASAP – she could lose the eye and possibly die if you wait too much longer!

  7. Natalia said,

    June 2, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    I can not believe that the whole entire hay was inside the poor guinea pigs eye I too have a guinea pigs and she does have the same thing,eye discharge but my question is,is it true that the hay was inside of the guinea pig?P.S, please if you can answer tell me.Thank you, Natalia.

  8. ACR&S said,

    June 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    The hay was wrapped around the front part of the eyeball, inside of the eyelid, not inside the eyeball itself. (Just like when you get an eyelash in your eye!) But it was so much larger than an eyelash that I’m sure it was very painful!

  9. Olivia said,

    October 6, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    My guniea pig Snickers eye is swollen and red and I believe a bit foggy… we recently got new bedding (wood chips, instead of out soft bedding)) for my 2 guniea pigs. I see a strand sticking out, and I am aware vet attention is most likely nessasary…. but I am not finacialy able to take her in to the vet… so what is the best way to treat her??

  10. Olivia said,

    October 6, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I just removed the small particle of what was hay from her eye, and now I am wondering if I should see a vet for any antibiotics??

  11. ACR&S said,

    October 7, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Yes, I strongly recommend seeing a vet. Most vets will work with you for low-cost treatment options or payment plans. You can also see if your local animal shelter has a staff vet who could help. Antibiotics won’t help if the cornea has been damaged, she needs expert medical evaluation before any treatment is attempted.

    Good luck!

  12. Sabrina said,

    February 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Has anybody ever seen where a guinea pig’s eyes are poking out funny? LIke, one eyes is poked out farther than normal and the other is sunk in? Raina is scratching at her eye that is sunk in and has scratched all the hair away from around her eye. Not sure if she has something in it or not. PLease help!!

  13. jamie j said,

    March 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    ive had my piggie, beiber, for 3-4 weeks and a couple days ago his left eye started to look as though he is squinting it…he doesnt seem to be as active, spunky, or vocal. his eating/drinking habits are still good tho! any ideas?? please help

  14. Chayla said,

    June 2, 2013 at 12:32 am

    HELP my two gueaneas got into a fight and now one has something wrong wit his eye its all blue and cloudy idk what to do :,(

  15. cindy v. said,

    October 9, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    My guinea pig’s eye is very red and popping out. As if she has no eye anymore and it is just waiting to come out. She has gotten much skinnier, but she still eats normal. If i take her to the vet i have no clue how much they will charge and i don’t have the money for it at the moment anr if i wait what if something more serious may happen to her.

  16. Jenna said,

    November 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    One of my guinea pigs has a cloudy eye. There is no discharge but only part of the eye is cloudy. Will this heal on its own? I’m not sure if I should wait or rush her to the vet