Ocular (Eye) Pain and Squinting in Small Mammals

It may not be easy to tell if your pet is experiencing eye pain. For most small mammals, hiding illness and pain is the way they survive. Due to their instincts to hide pain and illness, you may only notice subtle behavioral changes, such as sleeping more, hiding, decreased appetite, reduced playfulness, and an aggressive disposition. The connection of these vague expressions to eye disease is often only made after the pet has resumed his "normal" pattern of behavior. Other signs may include:

What to Watch For

Squinting is the most obvious symptom of eye pain. Other symptoms may include:


Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine what is causing the symptoms of eye pain and to direct subsequent treatment. Some tests may not be possible on all small mammals due to size of the pet and cost concerns. There are several potential diagnostic tests which include:


Treatment depends on the cause of the eye pain and squinting. There is no general treatment for these symptoms. Treatment may involve medical treatment, surgical intervention, or both to stabilize the painful ophthalmic condition.

Home Care

Recommendations for home care will depend upon the underlying cause of the problem. Seeking immediate veterinary medical attention is critical, as many causes of eye pain and squinting are vision threatening and most require specific medical and/or surgical treatment.

Gently clean away excessive eye discharge with a warm moist cloth to prevent crusting and caking of the hair around the eyes. Cease all attempts if the pet becomes aggressive or if pain seems intense.

If vision appears to be impaired, minimize stress and risk of injury by confining the pet to a safe area until the cause of the problem is determined.

Keep the pet in a dimly lighted area or room as most pets are photophobic and are more uncomfortable in bright lighting conditions.