How To Avoid Hay Poke In Guinea Pigs (3 Important Tips)

Have you ever felt like hay poke is inevitable? Hay Poke in Guinea Pigs is a common problem. However, there are ways to curb it.

To help your guinea pigs avoid hay poke, only use soft hay for your guinea pig’s burrowing hay piles and keep the piles flat. Burrowing into sharp hay can cause serious injuries to your guinea pig’s eyes. If you feed stalky hay, do so by keeping it in a guinea pig safe hay bag or rack.

Hay poke is awful and very dangerous for your piggies.

If your piggie has hay poke, your best bet is to get to a vet.

Think eyelashes (actually several eyelashes on your eyeballs), and you’ll know why hay poke is so bad.

With these tips, hopefully, you can decrease the chance of hay poke in Guinea Pigs.

What Is Hay Poke?

A hay poke is when a piece of hay or hay seed gets into a guinea pig’s eye.

Hay poke causes more than just discomfort for your guinea pigs. It can cause serious eye injuries, like scratches abrasions on their eyeballs. It can injure the eye as well and cause a cut, ulcer or puncture.

And if the hay poke is severe and isn’t treated properly, your guinea pig could lose an eye.

How To Avoid Guinea Pig Hay Poke (3 Best Tips)

guinea pig hay poke tips
Hay is your piggies’ best friend…and sometimes a sneaky, low-down enemy.

It’s very difficult to protect guinea pigs from hay poke. Unfortunately, their eyes are huge and they have a habit of diving into hay piles filled with sharp, stalky hay. However, choosing soft hay, correctly placing the hay in their closure, and avoiding stalky hay will help reduce the chance of pokes.

So, let’s do a little dive into each of these points more closely.

1. Soft Hay Is Best

The majority of pokes occur with Timothy Hay – especially the first cut type. It’s hard, often filled with seeds, and has a very sharp blade. Some good options if you want to avoid hay poke in guinea pigs are:

  • Timothy Hay: 2nd or 3rd cut
  • Meadow Grass: very soft and nutritious for piggies
  • Orchard Hay: which is also great for people (and piggies) who’re allergic to hay

2. Scale Back On Hay Pile Size

Look, you know and I know that guinea pigs absolutely LOVE burrowing into and playing in enormous piles of hay. It’s just so much fun for them and it’s a great form of enrichment.

The problem is that these piles of hay are super fun for their bodies, but not so much for their eyes.

It’s really easy for your little piggies to get hay poked in their eyes.

So, if it’s a big worry for you, instead of providing a huge pile of hay, give your furry friends numerous small piles of hay.

Try to keep the hay piles as flat as possible and as small as possible.

DON’T deprive your furry friends of hay.

What I’m saying is that (if hay poke is a problem), you need to moderate how much hay a guinea pig sees, and keep the type of hay you use as soft as possible.

3. Put Coarse Hay In A Hay Rack Or Bag

Hay racks and bags are a little controversial in the guinea pig community. Some people say that having hay in a rack or bag increases the risk of hay poke.

However, if you have a guinea pig that is prone to getting hay pokes, then it might be worth a shot trying a hay rack or bag.

To keep your piggie from diving into a pile of hay and getting poked, feed them their hay in a guinea pig safe bag or rack.

One where they can easily get to the hay, but aren’t going to hurt themselves getting their heads or bodies stuck in the rack or bag.

If your guinea pigs refuse to eat hay from a rack or a bag, then just stick with offering numerous, flat piles of hay through out the cage. It might be messier, but you definitely don’t want to limit your little friends’ hay. They need it to survive.

This video might interest you. It explains the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cuts of hay.

Remember:

It’s important to get the right vet care for your guinea pig too!

Please speak with an exotics vet or a general practice exotic veterinarian who understands guinea pigs and can provide the right care for your little guys.

Guinea Pig Hay Poke Symptoms

It seems like some guinea pigs are more prone to getting hay poke than others. 

It’s important to remember that symptoms of hay poke can mimic other illnesses like the “pink-eye” virus, so it’s important to be aware of what hay poke looks like.

Symptoms include:

  • a cloudy eye that makes it seems like your little friend is blind
  • puffy, red flesh poking from the corner of the eye
  • crustiness around the eyes
  • little friend is rubbing the eye on the ground
  • unable to close or completely open the eye

How To Treat Guinea Pig Hay Poke

a girl upset because her vet is on vacation and her guinea pig has hay poke

Homemade remedies for hay poke are generally discouraged, and let me tell you why:

You can EASILY make things worse by trying to treat your little friend with home remedies if you don’t know what you’re doing – or if you don’t have a steady hand.

If you think your guinea pig has hay poke, the best thing you can do is get your piggie to the vet.

(I’m not one to suggest that you run to the vet for any little thing, but eye injuries are in the “DO SEE A VET” category. Don’t wait.)

Eye injuries can get worse quickly and could even lead to the eye being removed (and I KNOW you don’t want that to happen).

The correct treatment at the vet often includes:

  • using a gel or solution to reveal and remove the hay
  • coating the eye with dye to examine it closely for scratches or abrasions
  • prescribing an antibiotic solution or gel to treat the eye

However, there are some things that you can do to help your piggie feel more comfortable until you can get your little one to the vet.

  1. Remove the hay: This is easier said than done and reallly should only be attempted if you can see the hay. And I don’t know about you, but using tweezers to pluck a piece of hay from a the eye of a squirmy guinea pig is enough to wreck all of my serves.
  2. Flush out the eye: Use saline solution. But only if the eye is gunky or still filled with visible hay.
  3. Remove any big piles of hay: No need to aggravate the situation. Replace the big piles with several, small, flat ones.
Here’s a video that shows how a guinea pig rescue owner removes hay from a guinea pig’s eye. I don’t recommend treating guinea pigs at home for hay pokes, but if you’re going to do it, you’ll want to a video example of someone who does it regularly.

Conclusion

Hay poke is a huge problem for guinea pigs. The good news is that there are ways to prevent it from happening in the first place, if you know what you’re doing.

If your piggies have been getting hay poked on a regular basis, or they seem really uncomfortable with their food source, try these tips:

  • Soft Hay Is Best: Timothy Hay isn’t always soft (try meadow, orchard, or 2nd cut Timothy hay) and it’s often covered in stalky blades which can cause serious damage to your little guy’s eyes.
  • Scale Back On Size: Guinea pig piles of hay might be fun for them but not so much when they get poked in the eye by one of those sharp pieces!
  • Put Coarse Hay In A Hay Rack Or Bag: This might sound like an odd solution, but if hay pokes are a constant problem, then it’s worth a shot.

One last thing: It’s always best to speak with an exotics vet before making big changes to the type of hay your piggies eat.

I hope that this article has helped you learn how to avoid hay poke in guinea pigs.

The tips shared are simple and easy to implement, with only a few adjustments needed when dealing with your furry friends.

Common diseases in Guinea pigs | Small pet select. (2021, August 3). Small Pet Select Blogs. https://smallpetselect.com/common-guinea-pig-diseases/

DVM, S. L. (2015). The Guinea pig handbook. Barron’s Educational Series.

Guinea pig feeding. (n.d.). The Humane Society of the United States. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pig-feeding

Rosie. (2021, January 24). How to identify and treat hay poke in Guinea pigs. nfps. https://www.newforestpetservices.co.uk/single-post/how-to-identify-and-treat-hay-poke-in-guinea-pigs

What should I feed my Guinea pigs? (n.d.). RSPCA Knowledgebase – Let Australia’s most trusted animal welfare charity help you answer the big questions. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-should-i-feed-my-guinea-pigs/

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