Exotic pets, rodents and birds

Pea Eye in the Cavy

Pea eye, or fatty eye, is something that might not pose a serious threat to the overall health of the guinea pig, but it's something that will detract from the appearance of the cavy, disqualify him from showing, as well as pose a bit of a problem down the line in overall eye health.

It is widely held that pea eye, which is nothing more than localized fat deposits within the soft tissue around the eye, is congenital, and is passed onto the next generation. This is a particularly thorny issue if the breeder is practicing line or in-breeding which serves to increase the odds that succeeding generations will develop the condition at successively earlier ages. For a photograph of a sow in this condition, here is a link to a picture of Pea Eye:

White American exhibiting Pea Eye

More times than not the condition does not develop until the animal is a mature senior which is isolated for "conditioning" for the show table. It doesn't appear to affect sows any more than boars, but more sows are allowed to get potty than boars. I would imagine that the development of pea eye in a mature boar is delayed somewhat until the animal stops growing, and the resulting dietary energy surplus enables the formation of fat deposits such as the crown. Did you know that the crown is just a fat deposit? This is a good way to tell if your cavy is trim or a little on the heavy side, if they have a very pronounced crown, they may be carrying a few extra ounces.

I have only ever seen the condition develop in Americans, or Satin Americans. I do know that the varieties of the non-Satin Americans which are considered the prime varieties for being highly competitive at the show table, i.e. Blacks, Whites, Creams, and maybe REO's are most often the varieties to get it. And varieties which have derived from crossing to these highly inbred lines. But this does not mean all Blacks, Whites or Creams are predisposed to getting Pea Eye. And in many cases the damage is done, so to speak, because by the time the condition rears its ugly head, the animal may have sired several generations. You may think that because Pea Eye only develops after an animal is over two years old that it is an individual issue, not a hereditary issue. The breeder may even remove the boar from breeding, but he has already tainted the next generation with this problem gene. In practice, any animal carrying this trait should be removed from a breeding programme, but often times, again, the gene is already passed before it's noticed. Altogether too often the result is that successive generations start developing Pea Eye at progressively younger and younger ages.

Pea eye has yet to be found in a coated breed (Peruvian, Silkie, Coronet, Texels and the satins), and has not been reported in Teddies or Abyssinians. It is widely thought that the quest to breed the perfect head in the American has resulted in fixing of this fault right along with the highly desirable round head with that good width between the eyes. It always seems that the very best heads, coat faults, and Pea Eye invariably appear together. Chuck Hawley always said that Pea Eye and "powerful" heads went hand in hand.

PeaEye is a benign condition which in no way threatens the health of the animal, and can actually be readily removed surgically. I would emphasize that I do not suggest, in any way, that any of anyone rush your unshowable cavies with Pea Eye to your local vet to have the Pea Eye surgically removed! This would represent a clear violation of the ARBA show rules, should you wish to show it after the surgery.

Problems can arise from the pea eye in the eye itself, such as blocked tear ducts or pressure on the optic nerve compromising sight, however it can't do much else beyond that. It can be very quickly corrected via surgery, or even in some instances, cutting treats and feeding a moderate amount of pellets each day and free choice hay.

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