I was still in my first year after qualifying when I met Biscuit.
Biscuit was a gorgeous bronze Abyssinian guinea pig, who arrived in a shoe box. His owner had noticed that he was screwing up one eye tight, and was obviously in pain.
I did a quick review of everything I knew about guinea pig eyes. We had not been taught anything about their care in vet school. But obviously they are mammals, so their eyes are presumably not dissimilar to those of a dog. I had sat through a whole course on canine Ophthalmology.
I reached for the local anaesthetic eye drops, and as I gently parted his eyelids I noticed that there was a spindly item, just thicker than one of his own hairs that seemed to be just protruding from under the eyelid. I gently bathed the eye in repeated layers of local drops, and waited a suitable time until he showed he was more comfortable and the anaesthetic was working.
He was now able to let his eyelids open, and what I saw was horrifying.
The surface of his eye was badly damaged, with an enormous blood rimmed crater. He could not see out and was in danger of the whole eyeball bursting. And I could see what was causing the problem: a pesky thread. So I gripped it carefully and started to ease it out from under the upper lid.
It was oddly reluctant to appear, and I soon found out why. That slender thread was part of a whole grass awn which had somehow concealed itself between the eyeball and the eyelid. I could hardly see it for the tears in my own eyes. I have seen this type of thing happen repeatedly since, almost exclusively in guinea pigs, who are among the tiniest of the creatures that I treat.
Who knows how those awns fit into that potential space, let alone how they get there?
To my amazement, all the damage on Biscuit’s eye healed within a week, leaving only a slight scar, once I removed that ghastly foreign body