Red-eyed guinea pigs have a unique appearance. There are many rumors about these guinea pigs being lethal, blind, or even sick.
But most people don’t know the exact reasoning behind the same.
As a curious guinea pig owner, I did some research and consulted a few professional breeders and Veterinarians to find out Why Do Guinea Pigs Have Red Eyes? Here is what I found out!
Guinea pigs with red eyes have albinism. In lay-mans term, it is a genetic mutation where the guinea pigs lack melanin pigmentation in the skin, eyes, and fur. Thus, the light from inside the eye reflects the pink/red color of tissues behind the retina. Albinism doesn’t lead to any additional health concerns.
According to a study, Albinism in guinea pigs is different than other animals.
Your guinea pigs can have black or brown fur and only red eyes, while some guinea pis that are pure albinos have white hair and pure red eyes.
If your guinea pig’s eyes were not red during the birth but have been developed in a later stage of their life, then there is a possibility that their eyes have become inflamed.
There is a medical explanation for this, which we shall discuss later in this article.
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Why do some guinea pigs have red eyes?
This appearance is mostly caused by albinism. There is a possibility that your guinea pig has white fur accompanied by the red eyes.
Originally the albino guinea pigs(white hair and red eyes) were the only ones that had red eyes.
However, eventually, due to deliberate breeding, even other color breeds have come up that have red eyes.
This mutation causes a dominant gene to block the creation of an enzyme called tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is the enzyme that is responsible for the production of pigmentation.
This pigmentation, which is also known as melanin is what gives the eyes and fur the bright color and texture it has.
If a guinea pig lacks this pigment, then they will have red eyes, white coat, or even both in some cases.
However, some guinea pigs can develop a red eye at a later stage. This is mostly due to inflammation in their eyes.
This inflammation can be caused due to various diseases like Conjunctivitis, Glaucoma, & Some bacterial infections.
You must visit a vet if you see any signs of such conditions in your guinea pigs. We will also discuss more on this at the end of the article.
With all the basics clear, let us bust some popular myths that people have.
Are red eyed guinea pigs lethal?
No, the red eyes guinea pigs are not lethal or more aggressive than any other guinea pig breeds.
Always remember the red eyes are mostly due to lack of pigment in their eyes, also known as albinism or due to some other health condition.
The color of the eyes has nothing to do with your guinea pig’s personality. However, some guinea pigs might have an aggressive nature.
Some piggies like to live in solitude, and it is entirely reasonable. Whenever a new guinea pig owner gets a guinea pig with red eyes and notices that their guinea pigs are fighting, they often believe it something with the color of the eyes that makes them evil or aggressive.
However, the reality is guinea pigs have a stage of proving dominance when they are first introduced in a new environment.
It is completely normal for guinea pigs to fight with each other to determine who is the leader and who is the subordinate.
That has nothing to do with eye color. So, to sum up, the belief that red-eye guinea pigs are lethal is only a myth.
Do all white guinea pigs have red eyes?
No, not all white guinea pigs need to have red eyes.
Red-eye usually happens due to albinism in guinea pigs. i.e., due to lack of pigment called melanin in their eyes.
However, if you have pure albino guinea pigs, then they will definitely have red eyes accompanied with snow-white fur.
No guinea pigs will have a white fur without the albino gene. Equally, No guinea pigs with red-eye will lack this gene as well.Study By University Of Chicago
However, pure albino guinea pigs can have a dominant albino gene that resulted in pure white guinea pigs with red eyes.
The white color fur in the guinea pigs is definitely a result of the albino gene in their body. However, they don’t need to have red-eye as well.
Do red eyed guinea pigs have poor eyesight?
Yes, red-eyed guinea pigs have a slightly different vision than other regular guinea pigs.
According to a study conducted, Most red-eyed guinea pigs(including albino guinea pigs) have fewer rods in their eyes as compared to other guinea pig breeds.
These rods are actually photoreceptors that send messages to the brain, which scans the object to understand it better.
Now due to lack of rods, red-eyed guinea pigs need a little bit more time to understand and examine the object in front of them.
You might have seen your red-eyed guinea pigs bobbing and weaving her head while looking at something.
What they are actually doing is trying to scan the object to understand what it is.
The lack of photoreceptors in their eyes makes the initial sighting a little blurry. Thus, they need some more time to scan the object clearly.
Are red eyed guinea pigs blind?
No, red-eyed guinea pigs are not blind at all. As discussed earlier, these guinea pigs have fewer photoreceptors in their eyes; thus, they take some extra time to understand and examine an object.
Sometimes even when you place a bowl of food in front of your guinea pigs, they might take a while before going for it.
In this case, what they are doing is examining the object to understand what it is. This definitely doesn’t indicate that they are blind.
They have a slightly different vision. That’s all!
Does albinism place a guinea pig’s health in danger?
No, albinism doesn’t place your guinea pigs in any serious health hazards. An albino guinea pig or a red-eyes guinea pigs is a healthy guinea pig just like any other guinea pig.
However, there is only one thing you must keep in mind. If your guinea pigs have a dominant albino gene, then they are more sensitive to light.
If you place your guinea pigs in a brightly lit area of your home or direct sunlight, subsequently, they will get stressed out and run for hiding.
As crepuscular animals, guinea pigs don’t enjoy bright light and sunshine in general.
However, if your guinea pigs have a dominant albino gene, you must make sure you never keep them in direct sunlight as they are more prone to skin burn and heat stroke as compared to other guinea pig breeds.
If you have an albino guinea pig in-home, keep in mind that they prefer a dim light location. Adjust the lighting as per their need, or they might never come out of hiding and even may fall ill due to stress.
What causes red eyes in guinea pigs? Guinea pig red eyes infection?
Hyperemia is also a condition referred to as red-eyes in guinea pigs. While some guinea pigs do have a dominant albino gene leading to red eyes in them.
Some guinea pigs develop an inflammation in their eyes that leads to red eyes. Hyperemia is a condition where your guinea pigs have inflamed eyes due to an increase in blood flow through the blood vessels in their eyes.
There can be a lot of causes that can result in hyperemia in guinea pigs. Some of the most common causes include:
- Eye injury, hay poke in eyes
- Allergy due to some foreign object
- Bacterial or fungal infection
- Conjunctivitis, Etc.
It can be a challenge for a new guinea pig owner to understand whether something is wrong with their guinea pigs or not.
In such a case, you must carefully watch out for some symptoms of hyperemia. Some common symptoms of hyperemia in guinea pigs include:
- Watery eyes
- Hair loss or patches around the eyes
- Swelling in eyes
- Lack of vision
- Hunched posture
- Unwilling to move or eat
If your guinea pigs show any sign of hyperemia, then you must visit a vet as soon as possible. Hyperemia can get worse and lead to a severe health condition if not treated on time.
For the treatment of hyperemia in guinea pigs, the vet may prescribe an eye drop, ointment, or oral medicines that need to be given to the guinea pigs on time.
Early detection of hyperemia is essential to prevent loss of eyesight in guinea pigs.
The iris of the guinea pig’s eyes reflects the light. The color of the eyes is dependent on the melanin particles present in the eyes.
Where a well-spaced particle gives a grey or blue eyes, larger melanin particles give them brown eyes.
However, Albino guinea pigs lack these melanin particles; thus, the light directly reflects through blood vessels in the eyes, giving them a bright red color.
No, albino guinea pigs are not blind at all. It is just a myth that red-eyed guinea pigs are blind.
However, the fact is they have a slightly different vision than other guinea pig breeds. We have discussed this earlier in the article as well.
The albinism in guinea pigs will not impact its health or life expectancy.
On average, they will live around 4-8 years as any other guinea pigs would live. Learn more about guinea pig’s lifespan from our article.
Sources: The role of hyperemia in cellular hypersensitivity reactions, Behavioral Measures of Spatial Vision during Early Development in Pigmented and Albino Guinea Pigs, Ocular disease in the guinea pig, Albino Guinea Pig, Electroretinograms of albino and pigmented guinea‐pigs.