Do you keep pet guinea pigs at your home? Similar to any pocket-animals, your guinea pig can also develop many eye problems. As a guinea pet parent, you need to be aware of its eye health at all times. – which made me wonder, are guinea pigs blind?
No, guinea pigs are not blind. However, the majority of them have poor eyesight. Guinea pigs, like other rodents, have a peripheral vision of 340-degrees as their eyes are present on either side of their faces. While human eyes see 22 images in a second, they see 33.
Despite this, cavies lack the capability of clear vision or image of any object. They can see movements and respond based on their sense of movement. Hence, guinea pigs have adapted the sensory activity of combining auditory and olfactory perception with their eyesight for their survival and basic movement.
Although guinea pigs are not blind by birth, is there a possibility that they are blind in one eye?
Let’s discuss more and find out!
Are Guinea Pigs Blind In One Eye?
No. Guinea pigs are not blind by birth, even in one eye. However, certain health conditions like dehydration, diabetes, respiratory issues, etc. or genetic disorders can lead to complete or partial blindness.
Which Guinea Pigs Are Born Blind?
Guinea pigs are not born blind under normal circumstances. However, there are incidents when congenital issues like small-sized eyes or 100% absence of eyes can lead to in-born blind guinea pigs. Let us take a look at the types of guinea pigs that are believed to be naturally blind and what is their reality.
Are Albino Guinea Pigs Blind?
Albino guinea pigs are never blind by birth. Considering guinea pigs with red eyes is actually a myth. However, it is worth remembering that albino pigs’ vision differs from that of other breeds of guinea pigs.
Are Red-Eyed Guinea Pigs Blind?
As mentioned above, red-eyed guinea pigs are not blind by birth but have a slightly different vision than regular guinea pigs. There is a common belief among people that guinea pigs with red eyes are blind and lethal. Veterinarians confirm that this belief is purely a myth.
Though originally only albino or white-haired guinea pigs had red colored eyes, now even other breeds of guinea pigs with different coat colors have red eyes. It happens because of conscious cross-breeding among guinea pigs leading to a mutation in them.
This mutation blocks Tyrosinase production, the enzyme responsible for pigment or melanin production in guinea pigs. When guinea pigs lack melanin pigment in their eyes, the eye appears red as the light gets reflected from the tissues behind their retina.
Are White Guinea Pigs Blind?
Not all white guinea pigs are blind by birth. In general, the albino guinea pigs with red eyes are white because of their albinism. But they are not blind by birth. However, the case is somewhat different about lethal white guinea pigs.
The lethal white guinea pigs are genetically altered rodents that don’t get a healthy and long life like regular guinea pigs. The chances of a newborn guinea pig having the lethal white gene are 25% when you breed a Dalmatian and a roan coat guinea pig.
These newborns have the recessive gene, which leads to white fur and pink eyes. Unfortunately, these pups are generally smaller in size than their siblings with a lower life span. They are sick and become deaf and blind after birth as they develop diseases like Microphthalmia.
Can Guinea Pigs Become Blind?
Yes, guinea pigs can go blind as they age like any other animal. It happens to them suddenly. Some even develop cataracts with age or get chronic diseases that trigger blindness in them. However, there is nothing to be scared of.
To begin with, they have poor vision, so they can continue their normal course of life when they lose their vision.
What Causes Guinea Pigs to Go Blind?
As mentioned earlier, age is a big factor that leads to blindness in guinea pigs. However, there are several factors involved in their blindness. They are:
Cause #1: Aging
As they age, guinea pigs can get cataracts from diseases like diabetes. Similar to any vertebrate, Calvies develop different diseases with age. Generally, guinea pigs start developing cataract around the age of 4-5 years.
Considering the fact that they live until an average age of 7 years, guinea pigs can spend the last 2-3 years of their life in complete or partial blindness.
Cause #2: Genetic Disorders
Genetic disorders can make them go blind right after their birth. These are cases where the guinea pigs are born without eyes or too small-sized eyes.
Cause #3: Digestive Issues
Your guinea pig can develop diseases related to metabolism or dehydration that leads to sudden blindness. Digestive troubles are never related to age. It can happen at any age upon consumption of unhealthy food and less water.
Cause #4: Trauma
Sometimes, we have seen guinea pigs lose their eyesight after traumatic events like poking in their eye with hay sticks or toenails of their cage mates or even fighting with other guinea pigs in the cage.
Trauma in guinea pigs can lead to corneal ulcers. Initial symptoms of this condition are drainage and eye swelling. However, with time it affects the internal corneal tissues leading to permanent blindness.
Cause #5: Congenital Diseases
Some guinea pigs are born with congenital diseases like Myophthalmia, where they lack eyes from birth or develop conjunctivitis at an early age.
Apart from Myophthalmia, they can develop other fungal or bacterial diseases that lead to constant tearing, inflammation, cloudiness of eyes, and eventually blindness.
How Can I Tell if My Guinea Pig is Blind?
The best way to understand if your guinea pig is blind is to observe their behavior. Check how often your pet gets scared while moving in its cage or around the house.
If you are not sure whether your guinea pig has blindness by observing, we can suggest several ways to confirm their blindness and differentiate it from their general bed vision.
Step 1: Place Your Guinea Pigs to an Unknown Place
As you observe your pet, see how they are behaving when you place them in unknown places in the house. If you are not comfortable placing them in a completely unfamiliar environment, move some of the common objects within their cage and observe. They will stop moving abruptly or get scared when they face obstacles on their way.
Step 2: Use a Torch Light to Check Your Guinea Pig’s Eyes
The other way is to check their eyes by directly shining a mild torchlight. When you shine a torch in their light, a normal eye will reflect a red color. But if your guinea pig is blind, a white reflection will be visible instead.
If the test results prove your guinea pig to be blind, there is nothing to worry about. Veterinarians can help with the situation unless it has happened because of a genetic disorder. Your guinea pig will soon adapt to the new physical condition itself.
You can leave things inside their cage the way they were before the blindness to aid the process. Guinea pigs have a strong memory and can move around familiar places even when they go blind.
Is a 9-year Old Guinea Pig Blind?
It depends. As guinea pigs often develop blindness with age, a 9-year old guinea pig can show signs of blindness normally. If you consider the “Human Time to Guinea Pig Equivalent Age”, a 9-year old guinea pig is as old as 90 years in a human. Clearly, it is the probable age for them to develop cataracts and lose their eyesight.
Guinea pigs generally live between 4-8 years of age under captivity. They generally start showing their signs of blindness and cataracts when they are 5-years old. Under exceptional conditions, they might live up to 9 years and show cloudy eyes as a sign of lack of vision.
What Does A Guinea Pig Vision Look Like?
As covered before, guinea pigs have eyes on either side of their face that eases their vision of approaching objects from either side of their head without moving it. They have a perfectly symmetrical eye position enabling a visual range of 340-degree.
Though they lack good eyesight, the cavies have sharp optical power and sensor for distant travelling eyesight. Thus they can sight their predators easily and plan their escape during an attack.
Despite the poor vision, their visualization senses help them in performing at par with other pets. They have preferential visualization. Certain factors that affect their visualization are-
- Color sensitivity (sensitive to green)
- Night and daytime lights
- Sharp light for distance traveling
- Presence of Spotlights and mild LED
To add more to their vision, guinea pigs have a neural connection between their memory and eyes that aids in maintaining a balance in visual dullness in their eyesight. It also allows them to remember tunnels, predators, tracks, and traps and determine how to escape easily. This neural connection is the key to a guinea pig’s memory of returning to their habitat, seasonal migration to previous habitat, etc.
Are Guinea Pigs Color Blind?
No, guinea pigs are not color blind. Though they have a bad vision in general, they see a wide color range. Scientists who performed experiments on these guinea pigs declared that they had complicated dichromatic vision.
Unlike other rodents, guinea pigs can distinguish between colors like red, yellow, blue, and green. Experiments show that these animals have high sensitivity to green colors.
Are All Guinea Pigs Color Blind?
As mentioned earlier, guinea pigs are not at all color blind. Leatrice Eisenman of the Eisenman Center for Color Information and Training studied the color perception of guinea pigs and concluded that their color vision is as evolved as dogs, cats, or horses.
They have dichromatic eyesight. But it isn’t easy to describe their vision. But we can conclude after several experiments that they are sensitive to green color.
Today, we learned that guinea pigs are not blind by birth but generally have poor eyesight. However, your cavies could go blind due to old age, genetic issues, coma or birth defects.
A good practice to make sure your guinea pig is not blind is by observing its movements. Try putting them in an unfamiliar place to see how they react. If you’re still unsure, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian.
As a pet owner like you, we want our guinea pigs to have a comfortable and safe place to live! If you find this article useful, share it with your piggy-lover friends.