What is Cherry Eye in Dogs?
Dogs have a third eyelid, located in the inner corner of each eye. You may notice this small, pink triangular tissue blink briefly across your dog’s eye when they yawn or appear tired. This tissue is a normal, very important part of the eye. The third eyelid contains a tear-producing gland that’s essential for lubricating the surface of the eye (the cornea). Cherry eye is a painful condition that occurs when this gland becomes exposed.
Symptoms of Cherry Eye in Dogs
When the third eyelid gland pops out of the inner corner of the eye it looks like a small cherry, hence the name “cherry eye”. It’s easy to spot as a pink or red lump in the inner corner of your dog’s eye.
You may notice excessive discharge from the affected eye. Your dog may also rub at the eye if the condition becomes too painful.
Causes of Cherry Eye in Dogs
Cherry eye usually occurs for no obvious reason. It can occur in one or both eyes, and often before one year of age.
Certain breeds are more prone to developing cherry eye, including British Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Beagles, Chihuahuas, Great Danes, Cocker Spaniels, Bull Mastiffs, and Shar Peis.
How to Help Your Dog
- If your dog develops cherry eye, schedule an appointment with your vet. Eyes are very sensitive and delicate structures, and prompt treatment is important.
- Cherry eye often runs in the family, so it’s not a good idea to breed dogs who have had the condition.
- If cherry eye occurs in a puppy or young dog, it’s important to report it to the breeder.
Treatment of Your Dog's Cherry Eye
Treatment should not be delayed. The exposed gland tissue quickly becomes inflamed and potentially infected, making it harder to treat the longer it goes on.
Medical treatment is usually the first approach that your vet will recommend. The goal is to reduce the inflammation and pain in the eye. Topical lubricating eye drops (artificial tears) are used to keep the tissue moist. Anti-inflammatory drops reduce swelling, which may help the gland shrink down in size. Antibiotic eye drops aren’t always necessary but may be indicated if an infection is present. These medications are typically applied several times per day for the duration of treatment.
Unfortunately, surgery is almost always needed to secure the third eyelid gland back into its correct place. While this surgery can help your dog immensely, it’s common for cherry eye to recur. Referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist is sometimes required in severe cases.
In the past, cherry eye surgery involved removing the third eyelid gland. However, this is no longer recommended, because the gland is important for producing tears. Removal can result in a condition called dry eye, where a lack of natural tears causes dry and painful eyes.
Unfortunately, even when treated properly, dogs with cherry eye may develop dry eye anyway. For this reason, your vet may want to check your dog’s tear production from time to time, using a quick and simple test.
After surgery, your dog will be required to wear an Elizabethan collar. This is necessary to prevent them from rubbing or scratching the eye until it’s completely healed. Your dog’s activity will also need to be restricted. Your vet may encourage you to walk your dog on a harness instead of a leash to reduce tugging and pulling around the head and neck area.
When to Visit the Vet?
If you think your dog has cherry eye, it’s important to schedule an appointment right away.
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