Do Guinea Pigs Blink? Eyesight, Sleep and Eye Problems

Close up of a Guinea Pig

If you have a guinea pig for a pet, you probably rarely see your furry friend with its eyes closed, and if you are wondering whether guinea pigs can even close their eyes or blink, you are not the only one.

Do guinea pigs blink? Guinea pigs will blink when they need to clean any dust or debris out of their eyes. They don’t blink that frequent due to being prey animals, which makes people wonder whether they blink at all. 

Guinea pigs have many predators in nature and not the best eyesight. That’s why they have developed the ability to blink only when it is absolutely necessary.

So, now that we know that guinea pigs can indeed close their eyes and blink, let’s take a closer look at how and when they do it.

Do Guinea Pigs Blink?

Yes, guinea pigs blink, although they don’t do it often. In fact, guinea pigs rarely close their eyes at all, which is why many people wonder whether they can blink.

When guinea pigs blink, it is usually prompted by something, Blinking can be caused by dry weather conditions, as well as foreign objects or debris that gets into their eyes.

Guinea pigs rarely blink or close their eyes because they are at the bottom of the food chain in nature and blinking disrupts their already poor vision. While blinking doesn’t really take much time, it can still be dangerous for guinea pigs to blink in nature. It is imperative for them to stay alert at all times.

These rodents have a well-developed oculomotor system, which regulates eye movement and blinking behavior. Thanks to this system, guinea pigs can suppress blinking when it’s dangerous and disruptive to their vision.

Guinea pigs in captivity are likely to blink more often than they would in their natural habitat. This often happens when your pet feels comfortable and safe. However, if your guinea pig blinks a lot it can be a sign of an infection, especially if it is followed by other symptoms like swollen or red eyes.

Thanks to their developed oculomotor system, guinea pigs can also blink with only one eye. If something is bothering just one of their eyes, they will usually blink on one eye to deal with the problem while the other eye stays open.

Guinea Pigs Blinking A lot

This is a result of something in their eyes, such as dust or debris from their bedding or hay. When your guinea pig blinks it is to clean the eyes. As their eyes are located quite low to the ground compared to other animals, it is quite common for dust to interfere with their eyes.

If your guinea pig is blinking excessively, it is a good idea to have a closer examination and to see if you can see anything that is causing it.

If the problem still continues, then a trip or call to your vets would be a good idea as eye problems can be quite serious.

Often when there’s an eye infection you will be able to see symptoms such as frequent blinking, keeping their eyes close, tearing, swelling, redness, scratching at their eyes or inflammation or discharge from the eye.

Other eye problems a guinea pig can experience is corneal ulcers, overgrown teeth, and tumors.

To treat your guinea pig’s eye problems you need to keep their cage clean and separate your guinea pigs in case it is infectious (depending on how bad it is_). A trip or call to your vets would be a good idea if their symptoms haven’t cleared after a couple of days or if it looks very bad.

Do Guinea Pigs Have Eye Lids?

Yes, guinea pigs have eyelids. However, you are probably not going to notice them easily because guinea pigs rarely close their eyes completely. This can make it hard to determine if they have eyelids but they most certainly do.

Another reason why it is hard to notice your guinea pig closing its eyes or blinking lies in the fact that they blink very fast. In fact, according to one scientific study, guinea pigs blink much faster than humans or rabbits.

So, it’s no surprise that you can’t easily notice when they close their eyes and determine that they, in fact, do have eyelids.

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Since it is so difficult to catch a guinea pig with its eyes closed, you may come to the conclusion that guinea pigs rarely sleep.

Guinea pigs tend to sleep in short bursts and will spend the majority of their day resting instead of sleeping because they are prey animals.

Guinea pigs tend to sleep for 4 to 5 hours per day in short bursts no longer than 10 minutes and spend about half the day resting. When they rest they can keep an eye out in case they’re any predators.

The answer to this mystery lies in the ability that guinea pigs have which allows them to sleep with their eyes open. Years of evolution during which guinea pigs were at the bottom of the food chain helped them develop an extraordinary oculomotor system that allows them to control their eye movements even when they are asleep.

While guinea pigs in captivity are usually more relaxed about predators since they don’t have any, they are still naturally inclined to sleep with their eyes fully or partially open. If you notice your pet lying still in its cage with its eyes open like it is gazing into the distance, it is probably resting or taking a nap.

However, guinea pigs don’t always sleep with their eyes open. Sometimes you may notice your pet sleeping with its eyes closed. That means that your guinea pig is feeling safe and comfortable. This will more often happen if your guinea pig is happy with its living environment and if it had enough time to get accustomed to its surroundings and develop a bond with you.

Guinea pigs are also more likely to sleep with their eyes closed if they have cage mates. They will often sleep together and cuddle, which will make them feel safer than they do when they sleep alone.

Do Guinea Pigs Have Good Eyesight?

Guinea pigs are prey animals, so they always have to be alert and on the lookout for predators. As we already mentioned, that’s why they keep their eyes open most of the time.

However, they also have unique eyesight, which combined with their facial structure allows them to see around them without even moving their eyes. Guinea pigs have an estimated vision of 340 degrees, which means that they can basically see everything that goes on around them.

How Well Can They See?

Even though they have a 340-degree range of vision, guinea pigs actually don’t have great eyesight. Their eyesight is limited by their problematic depth perception. Because of this, they can’t see very far. Guinea pigs also don’t really have detailed eyesight.

So, it’s safe to say that guinea pigs are fairly shortsighted. It is estimated that they can only see things that are within one meter range from them. Beyond this range, they struggle to see clearly and they rely on smell and sound to stay alert to any changes in their environment.

On the other hand, they also have a very good memory that helps them get around in nature. They can remember the location of food sources and tunnels. In captivity, this can help them move around various obstacles, like furniture for example.

Can Guinea Pigs See Color?

Yes, guinea pigs can indeed see color. According to this study, guinea pigs have dichromatic color vision. That means that they are able to see colors, although not as well as humans can.

What colors can guinea pigs actually see is not clearly determined yet. One study showed that they can definitely recognize the green color. According to another study, their favorite color is actually yellow. In fact, many scientists believe that guinea pigs have better color vision than dogs, cats and other animals.

Most likely, guinea pigs can see most of the colors that we can, although there isn’t enough evidence to support this claim at the moment.

Can Guinea Pigs See In The Dark?

Since guinea pigs are partially nocturnal animals (they are crepuscular), a lot of people presume that they can see in the dark. This is something that most rodents have in common.

However, there is no conclusive evidence that guinea pigs can indeed see in the dark. While it is logical that they are comfortable in the dark, especially since most rodents do have night vision, guinea pigs are likely relying on other senses as well, to move in the dark, and not just their eyesight.

Risks of Poor Eyesight

Guinea pigs in nature face predators and other dangers, which is why poor eyesight can often be fatal for them.

On the other hand, guinea pigs in captivity can also get hurt if they go blind or just because they have poor depth perception. For example, placing a guinea pig on the counter can be dangerous because it can fall off due to the inability to judge how far away the ground actually is.

To keep your furry friend safe, avoid cages with ledges since your guinea pig can fall from them. You should also pay attention to your guinea pig when it is playing in an exercise ball. It can easily crash into a wall or fall down the stairs if you are not careful.

How to Treat My Guinea Pig’s Eye Infection?

Guinea pigs are prone to various eye problems and some of those problems are more common than others. Perhaps the most common eye problem in guinea pigs is eye infection which can be either fungal or bacterial. In many cases, eye infections can lead to conjunctivitis or pink eye, as it is often called.

Symptoms of Eye infections in Guinea Pigs

The most common symptoms of eye infections in guinea pigs include:

  • Frequent blinking or keeping the eye closed
  • Constant tearing of the eye
  • Swelling or redness in the eye
  • Constant scratching or pawing at the eye
  • Inflammation or discharge from the eye

How to Treat It?

Eye infections can affect only one eye but they commonly affect both eyes. Since eye infections can be caused by an excessive amount of fungal spores or bacteria in your guinea pig’s eyes, treatment will depend on the type of infection and the severity of it.

Eye infections are treated either with antibacterial or antifungal medications. In mild cases, your vet may decide to treat the infection without getting a culture sample first.

However, if the infection persists, a culture sample can help your vet determine exactly what kind of fungus or bacteria your guinea pig is dealing with.

You can also clean your guinea pig’s eye if there is discharge and its eye starts to shut down. Use a damp, warm cloth to clean its eye gently before you see your vet. In some cases, cleaning out your pet’s eye can be enough to resolve the problem.

Other Eye Problems in Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs can suffer from other eye problems as well. The symptoms are usually similar to the symptoms you may notice if your guinea pig has an eye infection.

Corneal Ulcers – Corneal ulcers are commonly caused by scratches or irritation of some other kind. They are painful defects in your guinea pig’s cornea, which is one of the layers in its eye. The pain from corneal ulcers can even make your pet stop eating.

Corneal ulcers are usually treated with special eye ointments your vet may prescribe. Other treatment options may need to be explored if corneal ulcers persist, like using your guinea pig’s blood to create a special serum to be used as eye drops, or a surgery, which is the ultimate solution.

Overgrown Teeth – Guinea pigs have incisors like rabbits, which can often grow into a pathway between the eyes and the nose. This can lead to eye problems, especially the constant tearing of the eye. If your vet determines that your guinea pig suffers from overgrown teeth, he will probably recommend an extraction surgery.

Tumors – Tumors can sometimes grow behind a guinea pig’s eyes, which can lead to bulging or swelling of the eyes. Tumors are usually diagnosed with X-rays or an MRI.

However, an MRI is often not available at veterinary hospitals and owners don’t always pursue an MRI because there is usually no way to treat tumors in guinea pigs that develop behind the eyes. Instead, if your vet suspects that a tumor is present, he may recommend hospice care and managing pain and other symptoms.

How to Prevent Eye Problems

Some of these common eye problems can be prevented, while others are simply unpreventable. To prevent eye problems, especially eye infections, in guinea pigs, keep your pet’s cage clean at all times to avoid the development of fungi or bacteria.

If you have multiple guinea pigs living in one cage, try to avoid any fights or break them up as soon as you can since they can often lead to eye injuries.

It may be a good idea to separate your guinea pigs so that the eye infection doesn’t become infectious and spread to the other guinea pigs.

In the end, pay close attention to your pets’ eyes and take them to the vet if you notice any changes.

If their eye problem gets worse or your cornered then a visit or call to your local’s vets is properly the best option.

Related Question:

Are guinea pigs nocturnal? Guinea pigs are not strictly nocturnal. Nocturnal animals are always active during the night, while guinea pigs can also be active during the day. They are categorized as a crepuscular.

How often do guinea pigs sleep? Since guinea pigs often sleep with their eyes open, it is not so easy to determine how many hours a day they actually spend sleeping. In fact, guinea pigs often take short naps that last less than 10 minutes. It is estimated that guinea pigs sleep around 10 hours a day.

Can I keep a guinea pig in a hamster, mouse, or rat cage? No! Guinea pigs are large rodents and require a large cage to be happy and healthy. Aim for a cage that contains at least 7.5 square feet of living space for one or two guinea pigs.

Charlotte Silcock

Charlotte lives in the United Kingdom and has worked in animal shelters looking after small animals. She owns a hamster as well as a dog and a cat and hopes to spread her knowledge about rodents to help other pet owners.

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