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Guinea Pig Conjunctivitis: Cause, Treatment & Prevention Tips

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Tim Rhodes

Guinea pigs are prone to sickness and infections and guinea pig conjunctivitis is one of the many common infections of guinea pigs.

Before diving into the causes, treatment, and ways to prevent conjunctivitis in guinea pigs, it’s necessary to first understand what conjunctivitis is.

Guinea pig conjunctivitis (also called red eye or pink eye) is the inflammation of the guinea pig’s outermost layer of the eyes.

Although it’s said not to be as deadly as other diseases of guinea pigs, it’s however, a necessity to treat your guinea pig of this disease.

Therefore, you should understand how this disease can be treated because you don’t want to breed a sick pet.

Conjunctivitis in guinea pigs may be caused by various causative agents, but the common causes are bacterial infections, also known as bacterial conjunctivitis.

Hop in the rollercoaster while we dive into the causative agents of this conjunctivitis in guinea pigs.

Causes of Guinea Pig Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis in guinea pigs can be a consequence of various causes.

For better understanding, we’ve simplified these causes of inflammation of eyes in guinea pigs and grouped them by their causative agents.

The first group is conjunctivitis caused by bacteria, or better referred to as bacterial conjunctivitis.

While the second group is not caused by bacteria, but by various other causative agents.

This we termed non-bacterial conjunctivitis.

It’s pertinent to note that the highest type of inflammation of the ocular in guinea pigs is bacteria-caused.

This bacterial conjunctivitis also gives rise to what is called upper respiratory tract infections (URI).

Meanwhile, non-bacterial conjunctivitis may be a result of imbalanced nutrition, such as deficiency in vitamin C.

The other causes of non-bacterial conjunctivitis may be irritation, allergy, or dust, among others.

Let’s take a look at these causes of conjunctivitis one after the other.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

As earlier stated, bacterial conjunctivitis is the most common type of conjunctivitis in this exotic breed of mammal.

However, it’s important to note that several bacteria could be responsible for bacterial conjunctivitis in this species of animal.

Opening the conjunctival sac of a guinea pig infected with conjunctivitis, several different bacteria could be extracted from the sac.

This is a confirmation that bacterial conjunctivitis can be caused by several different bacteria.

These conjunctivitis-causing bacteria may include Chlamydophila caviae, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus zooepidemicus, coliforms, among others.

Let’s take a look at them.

Chlamydophila caviae

The Chlamydophila caviae is the primary bacteria responsible for eye inflammation in guinea pigs.

However, this Chlamydophila caviae or Chlamydia caviae goes beyond causing conjunctivitis, it may equally result in infection of the genital tract of female guinea pig.

Bordetella bronchiseptica

The Bordetella bronchiseptica is another bacteria responsible for bacterial conjunctivitis in guinea pigs.

This bacterium is one of the bacteria responsible for causing upper respiratory tract infection in the guinea pig.

Therefore, conjunctivitis caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica can also be linked with infections of the upper respiratory tracts of the guinea pig.

Staphylococcus aureus or S.aureus

Being a gram-positive bacteria, conjunctivitis caused by S.aureus is not usually as severe as that caused by gram-negative bacteria.

The good news about this type of eye inflammation or eye reddening is that it can be easily treated with antibiotics, without having to schedule an appointment with a vet doctor.

Streptococcus zooepidemicus

Unlike the aureus, Streptococcus zooepidemicus is a gram-negative bacteria and a popular causative agent of bacterial conjunctivitis.

In a nutshell, this pathogenic bacterium requires serious attention as it causes more severe conjunctivitis in guinea pigs.

Moreover, this opportunistic pathogen is zoonotic – i.e., diseases caused by it can be transmitted from animal to human – as a result of this, even the farmer (or pet owner) should be treated after having contact with the infected guinea pig.

Upper Respiratory Tracts Infections

Upper Respiratory Tracts Infections (URI) are a side effect of some bacteria infections in guinea pigs.

However, the symptoms of a severe URI in guinea pigs include watery eyes and ocular discharge.

The Upper Respiratory Tracts Infection is a severe disease in itself.

When in its acute stage, URI may cause difficulty in breathing, coughing, shivering, sunken eyes, among other symptoms.

Non-bacterial Conjunctivitis

The second category of causative agents of conjunctivitis in guinea pigs is within their bodies and not the bacteria.

Causative agents in this category may be as a result of nutrient deficiency, their environment, irritant, or allergy.

Lack of vitamin C

An important nutrient deficiency-caused conjunctivitis in this exotic pet is a lack of vitamin C.

Guinea pigs lack the ability to synthesize vitamin C by themselves because they lack the enzyme L-gluconolactone oxidase responsible for converting L-gluconolactone to L-ascorbic acid.

This is required in the formation of Vitamin C.

Thus, the guinea pigs need to be fed with vitamin C, either orally or as a supplement in food.

Irritation or allergy

Another cause of eye inflammation in guinea pigs may be as a result of irritation or allergy.

Guinea pigs are sensitive animals and thus react to any little allergy.

Allergic conjunctivitis may be caused by the animal’s reaction to certain drugs or antibiotics, wood shavings, dust, or any other irritants.

Other factors

Besides these listed factors responsible for red eyes in this animal species, there are some other non-bacterial causes of this sickness.

For instance, sharp objects in the cage, or overgrown teeth may equally cause your guinea pig to develop chemosis or ocular discharge.

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs

Having identified the cause of conjunctivitis in your piggy, it’s about time you knew some possible signs of infection to watch out for.

To identify your pets suffering from red eye disease, constant and close monitoring of these pets is necessary.

While at it, the popular symptoms to watch out for in guinea pigs suspected of having red-eye disease include;

Ocular discharge, Epiphora or watery eye

This is a common symptom of red-eye sickness in guinea pigs.

The moment you notice your pig starts to have watery eyes, it’s advised to take precautionary measures as this animal may be suffering from conjunctivitis.

Chemosis or Swelling of the Conjunctiva

Another symptom you should watch out for is the swelling of the guinea pig’s edema or the conjunctiva.

The moment you start to feel irritation growing in the eyes of your pet, it might be a sign of eye inflammation.

Therefore, immediate attention should be given to the pet.

Conjunctival Hyperemia or Redness of the Sclera

This is a medical condition characterized by the redness of the sclera.

This symptom of conjunctivitis may result in blurry vision, the wetness of the eye, among other side effects in the infected animal.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis or swelling of the eyelid is characterized by inflammation of the eyelid of the infected animals.

This may also include irritation or redness in the eyelid, which are not always pleasant for the eyes.

Photophobia

The moment your guinea pig starts to have difficulty looking at the light or going out during the daytime, it calls for serious attention.

Furthermore, there are other symptoms you may have to watch out for in your guinea pig.

For example, scratching of eyes could equally be an indication of possible infection of red-eye sickness.

Treatment for Guinea Pig Conjunctivitis

Now that you’re able to identify your guinea pigs that are suffering from conjunctivitis, let’s take you through how you can tackle this sickness and set your pig free.

Although conjunctivitis is not a deadly disease for guinea pigs, it’s still important to treat your pet as soon as you notice some of the aforementioned symptoms.

Moreover, the underlying illnesses caused by the bacteria responsible for pink eyes are enough to get you on your feet.

Another reason for immediate treatment of pink eyes in your guinea pig is because some of the bacteria responsible for this sickness are zoonotic.

Some are, however, highly contagious and can easily spread disease across your guinea pig farm.

With these in mind, raises the question “how do I treat red eyes or conjunctivitis in my guinea pig?”

Generally, conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotics and antibiotic eye drop.

However, to perfectly understand what antibiotic should you use in treating each type of conjunctivitis in your guinea pig, it’s important to simplify it according to the causative bacteria of conjunctivitis.

Let’s take it one after the other, starting the Bordetella-caused red eye infections.

Treatment of Bordetella bronchiseptica

Bordetella bronchiseptica is one of the popular bacteria that cause bacterial conjunctivitis in guinea pigs.

This URI-causing bacterium can however be treated with antibiotics and supportive care.

Popular antibiotics that can be used in treating Bordetella bronchiseptica include trimethoprim-sulfa or chloramphenicol.

However, if the Guinea pigs should react to these antibiotics, supportive care with fluids, assist feeding, and vitamin C supplementation should come in handy.

Furthermore, on severe occasions, the guinea pig may have to be administered oxygen, or bronchodilators.

Since Bordetella bronchiseptica can also lead to Upper Respiratory Tracts Infection (URI), the same treatment can be used in combating this sickness.

In addition to the use of antibiotics, the use of moisturizer and humidifier can also be deployed when combating URI in guinea pigs.

Treatment of Chlamydophila caviae

According to vetstream, this zoonotic bacteria may not be able to persist beyond 3 – 4 weeks.

However, that’s a whole lot of time considering the zoonotic potential of this bacterium, hence, the need for immediate treatment of the infected piggy.

Tetracycline is a good antibiotic in combating this bacterium as this bacteria species is vulnerable to the drug.

Also, doxycycline is another antibiotic that can come in handy in treating C caviae.

Besides, doxycycline is useful in preventing the bacteria from remaining in the nasopharynx of the infected guinea pig.

Treatment of Staphylococcus aureus

A report by Hawaii’s Journal of Medicine & Public Health on the effectiveness of several antibiotics for treating Staphylococcus infection in guinea pigs shows that only three antibiotics are very effective in combating this bacterium.

According to the report, the most effective antibiotic to combat Saureus is linezolid which proved to be 100 percent effective.

However, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole is also an effective antibiotic in combating this bacterium, having proved 95 percent effectiveness against it.

The next best alternative to the two antibiotics above is tetracyclines, which proved to be 94 percent effective.

Treatment of Streptococcus zooepidemicus

The recommended antibiotic for treating Streptococcus in guinea pigs is chloramphenicol.

This antibiotic has been proven effective in treating this bacteria and can be administered systemically to the pet.

Alternatively, azithromycin is also another safe antibiotic to use in treating this bacterium.

However, the side effect of this may be soft faces from your guinea pig, in this case, it’s advisable to stop administering it to your pet.

You can also consider fluoroquinolones, but it’s quite important to note that this antibiotic has proven to be less effective due to the frequent case of resistance from bacteria it has received.

Treatment of Conjunctivitis Caused by Scurvy

In the case where the red-eye is caused by a deficiency in vitamin C, it’s important to increase the intake of vitamin C supplements of the guinea pig.

Aside from causing pink eyes in guinea pigs, vitamin C deficiency, also referred to as scurvy, can lead to several other diseases in guinea pigs, like a weak immune system.

The average amount of vitamin C to feed an adult guinea pig should be between 20 – 25 mg per day.

This should scale up to about 30 – 40 mg per day in pregnant guinea pigs.

When you begin to notice signs of scurvy in your guinea pig, you should increase the vitamin c intake of the piggy.

Examples of vitamin C supplement you can feed your guinea pig include;

  • Formulated pellets, rich in vitamin C are readily available in the market
  • Fresh vegetable and fruit are a good source of vitamin C and are not too costly to get
  • Over-the-counter Vitamin C supplements or chewable tablets can be easily obtained from a vet medicine shop

Other Treatments of Pink Eye in Guinea Pigs

In addition to the above, broad-spectrum antibiotic eye drops or ointment is also effective in the treatment of bacterial conjunctivitis.

Having treated bacterial conjunctivitis with many antibiotics, how do you treat red eye or pink eye disease that are not bacterial caused?

Pink eyes disease that’s not bacterial-caused can equally be treated using eye drops like antihistamine eye drops among others.

Prevention of Conjunctivitis in Guinea Pigs

As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, it’s better to prevent the infection of conjunctivitis in your guinea pigs rather than having to spend on the treatment.

They say, “better to be careful than to be sorry”.

This is why prevention protocol or tips should be observed in the management of your guinea pig cage or farm.

Worrying about how to prevent conjunctivitis in your guinea pigs?

Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a series of prevention tips to help keep your guinea pig safe from this eye disease.

Environmental Hygiene

Keeping a healthy and hygienic environment is one of the best precautionary methods against conjunctivitis.

A clean and sanitized living environment will reduce the number of microbial lives and other infectious organisms in your guinea pig’s cage or farm.

Also, ensure to keep your guinea pig’s cage free from shafts, dust, or other irritants that could lead to eye redness disease.

How can you keep a hygienic environment for your guinea pig?

To keep a hygienic and clean environment for your pig, consider the following;

Set dust-free bedding for your guinea pig

Guinea pigs are sensitive to specks of dust and may react to any little dust in their eyes, therefore, you must set dust-free bedding for your pet.

Typical examples of dust-free beddings are newspapers or shredded papers.

It’s rather important to note that the newspaper or shredded papers are not absorbent.

This implies that these dust-free bedding can’t absorb urine or odor.

However, if you’re concerned about the odor of your guinea pig’s cage, then opting for polar fleece is an ideal choice.

Polar fleece is fast becoming an excellent absorbent bedding material to make a guinea pig cage.

However, it should be used alongside other absorbents, such as towels, or thick clothing materials for effectiveness.

Maintain Clean Living Environment

Guinea pigs are usually reared as exotic pets, therefore living in the same house as their owner.

The hygiene of your home may affect the chances of conjunctiva infection in your guinea pig.

Therefore, keeping a clean home as a pet owner also prevents the infection of conjunctivitis in the guinea pig as well as other infections.

You can also go as much as scheduling a routine clean-up of your home to keep a healthy living environment for yourself and your pet.

Reduce Stress of your Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs that are constantly stressed are at risk of having a lowered immune system, which may lead to high susceptibility to diseases.

Some of the risk factors of stress in guinea pigs include alteration in their routine activities which may include playtime, feeding, and how often you hold them.

Feeding Balanced Diet

A major cause of conjunctivitis in guinea pigs is hypo vitamin C or vitamin C deficiency, which is caused by a low intake of vitamin C by the guinea pig.

To prevent this, the guinea pig should be fed with adequate vitamin C.

Final Thoughts

Conclusively, as beautiful as these guinea pigs are and lovely as pets, they are equally liable to fall sick.

Therefore, adequate care should be given to your guinea pigs, whether reared as pets or as a farmer.

Importantly, keeping a clean environment is tantamount to rearing a healthy pet.

Guinea pig conjunctivitis is uncomfortable for your cavy, I hope this article helps you out!

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