Why Do Guinea Pigs Have Red Eyes? Are They Blind?

White and Red American Guinea Pigs With Red Eyes in their cage

It is commonly believed that guinea pig eyes only come in either brown or black color. No doubt, brown and black are the most common guinea pig eye colors, but guinea pig eyes come in a variety of colors. Surprisingly, many guinea pigs have pink, ruby, and red eyes. Guinea pigs can also have blue eyes; it is the rarest.

While some guinea pig lovers love red-eyed guinea pigs, many are aversive to red eyes because of the widespread myths and misconceptions. If you are here to find out how guinea pigs get the red eye color or if is there any truth to those myths surrounding red-eyed guinea pigs, continue reading. In this article, we are going to discuss all about red-eyed guinea pigs.

Red-Eyed Guinea Pig

The red-eyed guinea pig is not a distinct breed but just an eye color that may occur in any guinea pig breed. Healthy red eyes in guinea pigs usually occur because of albinism (lack of pigmentation). But albinism affects guinea pigs differently from other animals. This is the reason that you can have a red-eyed white guinea pig as well as a red-eyed red guinea pig, like the two American guinea pigs in the feature image at the top. Light-colored guinea pigs including Albinos, Argente, and Beige, are most likely to have red eyes. Chocolate and Roan guinea pigs may also have deep red colored eyes.

Red Eyed Guinea Pigs Is Not a Distinct Breed!

Red-eyed guinea pigs are not a distinct breed. Rather, it is just an eye color that may occur in any guinea pig breed. You can have a red-eyed American guinea pig as well as a red-eyed Himalayan guinea pig. In fact, the feature image that you saw above, is featuring baby American guinea pigs with red eyes. Below is an image of a longhaired Sheltie guinea pig with red eyes.

Longhaired Red-eyed Sheltie Guinea Pig on white background

How Do Guinea Pigs Get Red Eye Color?

Mostly guinea pigs’ red eye color is because of albinism (lack of pigmentation). But if your guinea pig’s normal eyes were brown or black and they just got red, it is probably because of some eye infection. Below we have discussed both albinism and eye infections that may lead to the development of red eye in guinea pigs.

1.      Albinism

Red eyes in guinea pigs occur because of albinism. Albinism is the lack of pigmentation—melanin. Melanin is responsible for imparting color to guinea pig skin, fur, and eyes. When there is no melanin in guinea pig eyes, the light falling upon them reflects the pink color of the tissues behind their retina.

You must be thinking that if red eyes in guinea pigs occur only because of albinism, how come we have guinea pigs with fur color other than white have red eyes? Well, albinism in guinea pigs is different from albinism in other species, according to a study.

So, it is not necessary that only white guinea pigs can have red eyes. Conversely, white guinea pigs don’t need to always have red eyes. Your guinea pigs can have black, brown, or beige fur and red eyes. That said, it is also possible that your albino—a white guinea pig—has brown or black eyes. 

Originally, it was only the albino guinea pigs that had red eyes. But it is due to deliberate breeding that today we get to see other color breeds have red eyes.

If your guinea pig had an eye color other than red, and it only developed red eye at a later stage, it is most probably because of soreness and inflammation.

2.      Eye Infection

If your guinea pig was not born with red eyes but develops red eye color at some stage in life, genetics has nothing to do with it; it is most probably because of some eye infection. Red eyes in guinea pigs often occur because of inflammation, which may occur in various diseases such as conjunctivitis, glaucoma, hyperemia, and some bacterial infections.  

Hyperemia is an eye disease in guinea pigs, in which there is an increased blood flow through the blood vessels in guinea pig eyes. This leads to the redness of guinea pig eyes. Hyperemia is common in guinea pigs and mostly occurs because of eye injuries due to hay poke, allergies, bacterial infection, glaucoma, conjunctivitis, etc. If your guinea pig had brown or black eyes and just develop red eye color, you should look for the sign of hyperemia in guinea pigs:

  • Watery eyes
  • Inflammation
  • Soreness
  • hairless around eyes
  • Bad vision
  • Decreased activity and appetite

If your guinea pig is showing the above-listed signs of eye hyperemia, you should get him immediate veterinarian attention. If treatment is delayed, hyperemia could get worse. Oftentimes, guinea pigs lose vision in the affected eye, and if the swelling is extreme and there seems to be something pushing eth eyeball out, the vet may recommend surgical removal of the eye. In mild cases, the vet will prescribe some eye drops, ointment, and antifungal or antibiotics.

Popular Myths About Red-Eyed Guinea Pigs

Red-eyed guinea pigs do not always find the love they deserve, and oftentimes are unwelcomed at guinea pig rescues. It is because of the widespread myths about red-eyed guinea pigs. Continue reading to learn that there is little to no truth to these myths about red-eyed guinea pigs. 

1. Red Eyed Guinea Pigs Are Aggressive

It is widely believed that red-eyed guinea pigs are lethal and aggressive. They are considered devils and thought of as having some kind of demonic powers.

Are Red-Eyed Guinea Pigs Aggressive?

No, red-eyed guinea pigs are aggressive or lethal. There is no link between the guinea pig’s eye color and the guinea pig’s personality

Chances are that you had a brown or black-eyed guinea pig and brought home a new red-eyed guinea pig. The red-eyed guinea pig might have started fighting your old guinea pigs, who had been living peacefully. This might have led you to believe that red-eyed guinea pigs are lethal and aggressive. Well, it is normal for guinea pigs to fight when they are first introduced. They fight to establish dominance—decide, who will be the leader. This fight for dominance has nothing to do with the eye color of guinea pigs.

2. Red-Eyed Guinea Pigs Are Blind

It is widely believed that red-eyed guinea pigs are blind. But there is no truth to this statement. Though red eye eyed guinea pigs are said to have slightly poor vision, they are not blind.

Red-eyed guinea pigs have lesser numbers of light rods in their eyes, which means that they take slightly more time to understand what they see. If they don’t focus or take a little time, things look a bit blurry to them.

That said, red-eyed guinea pigs have pretty good eyesight. They live a happy and normal life. 

3. Red-Eyed Guinea Pigs Die Young

Another completely baseless myth about red-eyed guinea pigs is that they are not healthy. They are susceptible to several health issues and tend to die young, compared to other guinea pigs.

Know that it is just a myth. Having red eyes or albinism does not make guinea pigs susceptible to any health issues. Albino guinea pigs and red-eyed guinea pigs are as healthy as other guinea pigs.

That said, you should know that guinea pigs with dominant albino genes are sensitive to light. Let alone albino guinea pigs, direct sunlight is not healthy for all guinea pigs.  being in direct sunlight increases the risk of overheating, heatstroke, and other heat-related maladies in guinea pigs. Therefore, you should ensure that there is no direct sunlight falling on your guinea pig’s cage.

Albino guinea pigs are just a bit more sensitive to light and heat. And being in sharp light make them stressed and prone to skin burns. Therefore, you should provide dim light to your albino guinea pigs and place hides in their cage, where they could run and hide in case the light is unfriendly.

4. All White Guinea Pigs Have Red Eyes

No, all white guinea pigs don’t have red eyes. While there is no doubt that white fur in guinea pigs occurs due to albino genes and red eyes are also due to albinism, white fur, and red eyes could also occur independently. This means that a white guinea pig may have an eye color other than red. Similarly, guinea pigs with coat colors other than white can have red eyes. You can have a red-eyed black guinea pig as well as a red-eyed roan or beige guinea pig.

Red-Eyed Guinea Pigs Are the Most Overlooked!

Lethal White Guinea Pig with Pink Eyes

Because of the myths surrounding red-eyed guinea pigs, they are often overlooked. Oftentimes, guinea pig rescues do not accept them, thinking that they will bring aggression or some disease with them. If a rescue has a guinea pig with red eyes, they stay there until they die of old age, because no one would adopt them.

When people visit guinea pig rescuers, the first question they are asked is “are you aversive to red eyes?”

Here is a video of a Los Angeles guinea pig rescue volunteer Scotty ranting about red-eyed guinea pigs and those who hate and fear them.

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