Do Guinea Pigs Blink: Guide and Vet Q&A

If you’re a new guinea pig parent, it’s normal to feel concerned about not noticing your piggy’s blinks. But is that a normal behavior for a guinea pig? Do guinea pigs blink at all?

In this piece, I’ll answer this important question, explain everything you should know about your guinea pig’s eye anatomy and common eye problems, and answer some other important questions.

The Anatomy of Guinea Pig Eyes

To understand the difference between normal and abnormal blinking in guinea pigs, we first must discuss their fascinating eye anatomy. 

Guinea pigs have large eyes on the sides of their heads, giving them a convenient view to spot potential dangers. The structure of their eyes is similar to ours, which is why scientists have used them in myopia research in recent years.

However, guinea pigs have an extra eyelid called the nictitating membrane. This part of the guinea pig’s eye provides extra protection and moisture to the eye.

A guinea pig’s eye consists of the following parts:

  • Cornea
  • Sclera
  • Optic nerve
  • Limbus
  • Seven extraocular muscles

The extraocular muscles include:

two medial rectus muscles, one superior rectus muscle, one inferior rectus muscle, one superior oblique muscle, one inferior oblique muscle and one retractor bulbi muscle.

Guinea pig has seven extraocular muscles: 

  • two medial rectus muscles
  • one superior rectus muscle
  • one inferior rectus muscle
  • one superior oblique muscle
  • one inferior oblique muscle
  • and one retractor bulbi muscle

Yes, guinea pigs do blink. They blink mostly to moisten their eyes and to remove dust and dirt. 

However, they blink less frequently than humans, so you may not even notice. Guinea pig blinks are also much faster than human blinks.

A normal blink rate for a guinea pig is about 10 blinks per minute, while a normal blink rate for a human is about 12-20 blinks per minute.

Here are some signs that your guinea pig may be having trouble blinking:

  • Their eyes are dry or red.
  • They are blinking excessively.
  • They have difficulty opening or closing their eyes.
  • They have a discharge from their eyes.

If you notice any of these signs, taking your guinea pig to the vet is important to diagnose and treat potential medical conditions.

The study published in The National Library of Medicine provides a comprehensive overview of eyelid movements in humans, guinea pigs, and rabbits. 

The researchers used various methods, including high-speed videography, electromyography (EMG), and mechanical stimulation, to investigate the characteristics of eyelid movements. 

Their findings provide new insights into the neural mechanisms that control eyelid movements and the similarities between these mechanisms across different species.

Key Findings

The patterns of eyelid movement are noticeably similar in humans, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

The relationship between amplitude, duration, and maximum velocity is nearly identical in rabbits and humans, while guinea pig blinks are faster than those of rabbits and humans.

Considering guinea pigs only blink when they have to, they blink only a few times per day. And several factors can affect how often they blink.

For example, these factors can include being startled or scared, communication/signlas between companions, moisturizing, protection against dust particles, or even sudden environmental changes.

What Can Affect the Blinking In Guinea Pig’s Eyes?

A healthy guinea pig blinks only when they have to. Here are some of the most common reasons why guinea pigs blink more than ususal:

  • Stress response: Stress is one of the most common reasons that can significantly affect how often a guinea pig blinks. When they feel anxious or threatened, guinea pigs will usually blink more frequently.

If you notice increased blinking frequency in your piggies, it’s a sign that something is bothering them. Typically, this happens due to loud noises and sudden movements, since guinea pigs are easily scared.

So, paying attention to these stress signals is critical for their well-being.

  • Communication: Guinea pigs communicate with each other through various subtle cues, and blinking is one of them. A slow blink can signal relaxation and contentment, while rapid blinking typically indicates excitement or even danger.
  • For moisturizing purposes: Although they rarely do it, guinea pigs blink to moisturize their eyes. The moisture helps prevent dryness and irritation, just like us.

Dry eyes can cause discomfort and lead to potential health problems like crusty eyes, conjunctivitis, and cataracts.

  • Protection against dust: Guinea pigs are ground-dwelling creatures, making their eyes susceptible to dust particles. Blinking is a natural defense mechanism against dust and unwanted debris, preventing potential irritation or damage.
  • Environmental changes: Just like us, guinea pigs will change their blinking pattern due to light changes around them, especially when their environment suddenly becomes more darker or brighter.

Common Eye Problems

guinea pig checked by veterinarian

Sometimes, changes in a guinea pig’s blinks can indicate different eye problems. Here are some of the most common ones that guinea pigs typically experience:

  • Infections (Bacterial or Fungal): guinea pigs can get conjunctivitis, often called pink eye. This is when the pink tissue around their eyes becomes irritated and inflamed.

Besides conjunctivitis, guinea pigs eyes are susceptible to other bacterial or fungi infections too. The common signs of an eye infection are watery eyes, swelling, and redness.

However, vets can treat them with different kinds of medications.

  • Corneal Ulcers: Corneal ulcers are like scratches on a guinea pig’s eye surface. They happen from injuries – the most common one being hay poke.

Signs include excessive blinking, tearing, and sometimes a white spot on the eye. The surgery is a must in most cases, but not always.

  • Cataracts: One of the more dangerous eye problems is cataracts – ‘’clouding’’ around the eye lenses. This mostly happens to older piggies due to aging but can also occur to younger guinea pigs due to genetics.

The symptoms are usually a white haze in the eye and, sometimes, changes in behavior.

  • Glaucoma: Increased pressure in the eye leads to glaucoma. It’s much more rare than others but not any less serious. In this case, the guinea pig’s eyes may look bigger, and the guinea pig might be in pain.

If you suspect symptoms of glaucoma, immediately take your piggy to the vet.

  • Hay poke: Sometimes hay or bedding particles can get into piggy’s eyes. This causes irritation and discomfort and is painful.

Keep in mind that some piggies, especially younger ones, often experience a hay poke in their eyes. 

Remember: Inspect your piggies daily, and if you notice any drastic changes in blinking or common symptoms, contact your vet as soon as possible.

None of the guinea pig breeds have eyelashes for protection of their eyes. Instead, they rely on the speed of their blinks to keep their eyes moist and shielded. They blink fast, making spotting your piggy’s blinks incredibly difficult.

Vet Q&A

Do guinea pigs close their eyes?

Yes, guinea pigs close their eyes. But this doesn’t occur often, as guinea pigs are active nearly the entire day. They even keep their eyes open while they’re napping and even sleeping.

If you notice that your piggy keeps closing its eye, this may be a sign of a hay poke or a more serious eye problem. In this case, you should visit and consult your vet immediately.

What is guinea pig eyesight like?

Although their eye structure is similar to ours, guinea pigs have relatively poor vision. Their depth of field is much lower so they can’t see far away – a bit more than three feet (one meter).

A guinea pigs also can’t see all the colors. They’re dichromats, so they have two different types of cones in eyes, meaning they can see only two primary colors and their variations – yellow and blue.

Although their vision is limited, guinea pigs don’t have trouble navigating their surroundings, even at night. They’re crepuscular animals, meaning they’re mostly active during dawn and dusk hours, so they rely on their keen senses of smell, hearing, and whiskers to hide in low-light environments.

So, don’t be surprised if you notice that your guinea pigs like the dark.

Why does my guinea pig stare at me?

The most common reason a guinea pig will sometimes stare at you is if they’re scared. Since guinea pigs are prey animals, they can easily get startled by sudden movements or loud noises in their environment.

However, there are some other reasons to consider too, such as:

  • Sleeping or napping – because they rest with their eyes open and rarely close them, so it may look like your piggy is staring at you, even though they’re just resting.
  • Curiosity
  • Hunger
  • Bored