Understanding Cherry Eye in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Cherry Eye in dogs is a common term used to describe a condition where the gland located in the third eyelid becomes prolapsed and is visible as a red, swollen mass in the corner of the eye. 

The nictitating membrane present in the eye of dogs and other animals plays a very important role in the protection of eye and lubrication of eye when there is inflammation in this nictating membrane its shape resembles the cherry so its name is from the shape cherry eye in dogs

Addressing Cherry Eye in dogs is essential for several reasons. Firstly, the exposed gland is at risk of becoming dry and irritated, which can lead to discomfort and potential complications. Secondly, if left untreated, Cherry Eye in dogs can cause long-term issues with tear production, leading to chronic dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) and increasing the risk of secondary eye infections. This is also a disturbing situation for the dog or pet owner but proper care and prevention from cherry eye in dogs can reduce the risk of this condition.

What is Cherry Eye?

Cherry eye in dogs is a common eye condition that can affect dogs, particularly certain breeds with a predisposition to the condition. The condition is formally known as “prolapsed nictitans gland” or “prolapsed third eyelid gland.” Dogs and some other animals like cats have a third eyelid, also called the nictitating membrane or haw, which is a thin, pinkish membrane located at the inner corner of each eye.

There is a gland which is producing tears and lubrication in the eye this gland is associated with the nictitating membrane or third eyelid.

The Cherry eye in dogs occurs when the gland in the third eyelid becomes inflamed, swollen, or prolapses, meaning it protrudes and becomes visible at the corner of the dog’s eye. The affected gland appears as a reddish or pinkish mass, resembling a cherry, hence the name “Cherry Eye.”

Anatomy of the third eyelid in dogs

To better understand Cherry Eye in dogs, let’s take a look at the anatomy of the third eyelid in dogs. The third eyelid is an important part of the eye of dogs and some other animals this eyelid is protecting the eye from environmental hazards. It is located on the medial corner of each eye, closest to the nose, and it moves horizontally across the eye surface when the dog blinks.

There is a gland associated with the third eyelid which performs the function of lubrication of the eye and production of tears which prevent the eye from drying. And also protect the eye from infections.

How Cherry Eye affects dogs

Cherry Eye In dogs can be uncomfortable for dogs and may cause irritation, inflammation, and dryness in the affected eye. It is most commonly seen in young dogs, typically before the age of two, although it can occur at any age. Certain breeds, such as Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Boston Terriers, and other brachycephalic breeds, are more prone to developing Cherry Eye in dogs.

If left untreated, Cherry Eye in dogs can lead to chronic eye issues, including dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) and potential complications like eye infections. Therefore, early detection and proper treatment are essential.

Causes of Cherry Eye

cherry eye

Genetic predisposition: Cherry eye in dogs is often considered to have a genetic component, meaning certain breeds or lines of dogs may be more prone to developing this condition.

Weakness in connective tissue: Cherry eye in dogs is caused by the prolapse of the tear gland (third eyelid gland) due to weakness in the connective tissue that holds it in place.

Breed-specific tendencies: Certain dog breeds are more commonly affected by cherry eye, suggesting a breed-specific tendency. Breeds such as Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, and Shih Tzus are among those known to have a higher prevalence of cherry eye.

Environmental factors: While genetic factors and breed tendencies play a significant role, there may be some environmental factors that can exacerbate the condition, such as inflammation or irritation of the eye, which can increase the likelihood of the tear gland prolapsing.

Symptoms of Cherry Eye

Symptoms of Cherry Eye in dogs may include:

Visible red or pink mass in the corner of the eye: One of the most apparent signs of Cherry Eye in dogs is the appearance of a fleshy, swollen, or pinkish-red mass in the inner corner of the dog’s eye.

Excessive eye discharge: Dogs with Cherry Eyes may experience increased tear production, leading to excessive eye discharge that could be clear or slightly cloudy.

Frequent rubbing or scratching of the eye: The discomfort caused by the condition may lead the dog to frequently paw at or rub the affected eye in an attempt to alleviate the irritation.

Irritation and discomfort: Cherry Eye in dogs can cause irritation and discomfort in the affected eye, leading to squinting and sensitivity to light.

Potential complications if left untreated: If Cherry Eye in dogs is left untreated, it can result in complications such as dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) due to the improper functioning of the tear-producing gland, and secondary eye infections that could worsen the condition.

Breeds Prone to Cherry Eye In Dogs

Cherry eye in dogs is a condition that occurs when the gland of the third eyelid prolapses, leading to a red, swollen, and prominent mass in the corner of the eye. While it can happen in any breed, certain dog breeds are more prone to developing cherry eye. Additionally, there are genetic factors that may influence the prevalence of cherry eye in certain breeds.

Common breeds affected by cherry eye include:

Bulldogs (English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, etc.)

Cocker Spaniels

Beagles

Boston Terriers

Shih Tzus

Lhasa Apsos

Pekingese

Pugs

Boxers

Basset Hounds

Neapolitan Mastiffs

These breeds are more susceptible to cherry eye due to their genetics and anatomical features.

Genetic factors influencing prevalence:

The exact cause of cherry eye is not fully understood, but it is believed to have a genetic component. Certain breeds may have a predisposition to this condition due to specific genetic factors that affect the strength of connective tissues and the gland’s support within the eye. Breeding practices that perpetuate genes linked to weakened eye structures can increase the likelihood of cherry eye in the offspring.

Diagnosing Cherry Eye

Diagnosing Cherry Eye typically involves both physical examination by a veterinarian and differentiating it from other eye conditions. Let’s break down each step:

Physical examination by a veterinarian:

The first and essential step in diagnosing Cherry Eye is to have a qualified veterinarian conduct a thorough physical examination of your pet. During this examination, the vet will inspect your pet’s eyes and look for any signs of redness, swelling, or abnormal protrusion of the third eyelid. Cherry Eye is characterized by the prolapse or protrusion of the gland of the third eyelid, making it visibly red and swollen. The vet may also assess the overall health of your pet’s eyes and check for any other related issues.

Differentiating Cherry Eye from other eye conditions:

Some eye conditions may have similar symptoms to Cherry Eye, so the veterinarian must differentiate between them. Other possible eye conditions that can present with similar symptoms include conjunctivitis, eye infections, or even tumors. The veterinarian may use a combination of diagnostic techniques, such as:

Fluorescein stain test: This test helps identify any corneal ulcers or scratches on the surface of the eye that could be causing similar symptoms.

Tonometry: This test measures the intraocular pressure to detect glaucoma, which is another eye condition with different symptoms from Cherry Eye.

Visual inspection and palpation: The vet may manually examine the eye, eyelids, and surrounding tissues to gather more information and detect any abnormalities.

Examination of eye discharge: Analyzing the discharge from the eye can provide additional clues about the underlying cause.

Once the veterinarian has completed the examination and ruled out other possible conditions, they can make a definitive diagnosis of Cherry Eye. If Cherry Eye is confirmed, the vet will discuss treatment options with you, which may include medical management or surgery to correct the prolapsed gland.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for Cherry Eye in dogs can be categorized into non-surgical approaches and surgical options. Let’s explore each of them:

Non-surgical approaches

Topical medication: In some cases, veterinarians may prescribe eye drops or ointments to help reduce inflammation and swelling in the affected gland. These medications may be used as a conservative treatment or in preparation for surgery.
Massaging the gland back into place: In mild cases of Cherry Eye, your veterinarian may attempt to massage the prolapsed gland back into its normal position. However, this method is not always successful, and the gland may pop back out, requiring surgical intervention

Surgical options

Advantages and disadvantages of surgery:

Surgery is often the most effective and long-term treatment for Cherry Eye. The main advantage is that it can permanently reposition the prolapsed gland, reducing the risk of recurrence and preventing potential complications associated with Cherry Eye, such as dry eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca). However, like any surgical procedure, it does come with some risks, such as the possibility of postoperative complications, though these are relatively rare.

Techniques used in Cherry Eye surgery:

Replacement technique: This is the most common surgical approach for treating Cherry Eye. In this procedure, the veterinarian makes an incision near the prolapsed gland, and then the gland is carefully repositioned back to its normal position. The veterinarian may also suture the gland to the surrounding tissues to secure it in place. This technique helps to restore the gland’s function and appearance.

Tuck technique: This technique involves creating a small pocket or “tuck” within the third eyelid to accommodate the gland. The gland is then placed inside this pocket and sutured in place. While this technique is less commonly used, it can be an option in specific cases.

Partial gland removal: In some instances where the gland is severely damaged or non-functional, the veterinarian may decide to partially remove the gland. This approach is less preferred, as the gland’s function may be compromised, potentially leading to dry eye.

It’s important to note that surgical procedures should be performed by a skilled and experienced veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist to minimize complications and ensure the best possible outcome.

Aftercare and postoperative management are essential to ensure proper healing and minimize the risk of complications. Your veterinarian will provide specific instructions for post-surgery care tailored to your dog’s individual needs.

Post-Treatment Care

Post-treatment care for cherry eye in dogs is essential to ensure a successful recovery and minimize the chances of recurrence. Cherry eye is a condition where the gland of the third eyelid prolapses and becomes visible, resembling a red, swollen mass in the corner of the eye. Treatment often involves surgical correction to reposition the gland. Here are the key aspects of post-treatment care:

The recovery process after surgery

Rest and confinement: After surgery, it’s crucial to provide your dog with a quiet and comfortable space to rest. Avoid excessive activity, play, or jumping during the recovery period.

Medication: Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medications and antibiotics to manage pain and prevent infection. Follow the prescribed dosage and administration instructions carefully.

Eye drops: You might need to administer prescribed eye drops or ointments to promote healing and prevent dryness. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions on how to apply them correctly.

Prevent scratching or rubbing: Prevent your dog from scratching or rubbing the affected eye to avoid any complications or damage to the surgical site.

Monitor for complications: Keep a close eye on the surgical site for any signs of inflammation, discharge, or abnormal swelling. If you notice anything concerning, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Medication and follow-up visits

Administer prescribed medications: Ensure that you give your dog all prescribed medications as directed by your veterinarian.

Follow-up visits: Schedule and attend all follow-up appointments as advised by your veterinarian. These visits are crucial for monitoring the healing process and ensuring there are no complications.

Stitches removal: If stitches were used during the surgery, your veterinarian will let you know when they need to be removed.

Preventive measures to avoid recurrence

preventing dogs

Early intervention: If you notice any signs of cherry eye in your dog, seek veterinary attention promptly. Early intervention may prevent the condition from worsening, making it easier to treat.

Gently clean the eyes: Regularly clean your dog’s eyes with a damp, soft cloth to remove debris and reduce the risk of irritation.

Prevent eye trauma: Avoid situations or activities that may lead to eye trauma, such as rough play or exposure to sharp objects.

Maintain overall eye health: Feed your dog a balanced diet, provide adequate hydration, and consider incorporating eye health supplements if recommended by your veterinarian.

Regular veterinary check-ups: Schedule routine veterinary check-ups to monitor your dog’s eye health and detect any potential issues early on.

Complications and Risks

Potential risks associated with surgery for cherry eye disease in dogs:

Infection: Surgery involves creating an incision, which can potentially introduce bacteria and lead to infection in the affected area.

Hemorrhage: There is a risk of excessive bleeding during or after the surgery.

Anesthesia risks: General anesthesia carries inherent risks, especially for older dogs or those with pre-existing health conditions.

Poor wound healing: Some dogs may have difficulty healing properly after surgery, leading to delayed recovery or wound dehiscence.

Recurrence: In some cases, cherry eye may reoccur after surgery, requiring additional procedures.

Dry eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca): Surgery can damage the tear gland or duct, leading to reduced tear production and dry eye, which requires additional treatment.

Eye discomfort: Dogs may experience postoperative pain and discomfort, requiring appropriate pain management.

Cosmetic appearance: After surgery, the appearance of the dog’s eye may not be entirely normal, although efforts are made to minimize cosmetic changes.

Long-term implications if left untreated

If a cherry eye disease is left untreated, several long-term implications may arise:

Chronic irritation: The exposed gland can become dry and inflamed, leading to chronic irritation and discomfort for the dog.

Secondary infections: The exposed gland is susceptible to bacterial infections, which can lead to conjunctivitis or other eye-related issues.

Progression of the condition: Over time, the cherry eye can worsen, causing additional complications.

Impaired tear production: The affected eye may have reduced tear production, leading to dry eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca) and potential corneal damage.

Corneal ulcers: The lack of proper tear production can increase the risk of corneal ulcers, which can be painful and may lead to vision loss.

Chronic eye discharge: The eye may produce excessive discharge, leading to constant tearing and staining around the eye.
Vision problems: In severe cases, untreated cherry eye can lead to vision impairment or loss in the affected eye.

Preventing Cherry Eye in Dogs

Here’s how each option helps prevent Cherry Eye in dogs:

Early detection and intervention: Regularly examining your dog’s eyes and seeking veterinary attention at the first signs of any abnormality is crucial. If Cherry Eye is detected early, your veterinarian may be able to address it before it progresses to a more severe stage. Early treatment can reduce the risk of complications and may also improve the chances of success with conservative treatment options.

Genetic testing and responsible breeding practices: Cherry Eye can have a genetic component, meaning it may be passed on from one generation to the next. Responsible breeders conduct genetic testing to identify dogs that carry the gene associated with Cherry Eye and avoid breeding those individuals. This helps reduce the prevalence of the condition within specific dog breeds and prevents the passing of genetic predisposition to future generations.
Proper eye care and hygiene for dogs: Maintaining good eye hygiene is essential in preventing eye issues, including Cherry Eye. Regularly clean your dog’s eyes with a damp cloth to remove debris and prevent infection. Avoid using harsh or irritating substances near the eyes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, cherry eye is a common and treatable condition that affects dogs, particularly certain breeds with predispositions to the condition. While it may look alarming and uncomfortable, dog owners need to remain calm and seek veterinary attention promptly. early detection of disease helps to start treatment very soon without wasting time if the disease is not diagnosed or miss understood by the doctor or dog owner then treatment is no hit-and-trial bases which can badly affect the health of your pet or dog

Remember that cherry eye is not a life-threatening condition, but it can lead to discomfort, eye dryness, and potential long-term issues if left untreated. Surgical options are available and have a high success rate, but non-surgical treatments might be effective in some cases.

You have to stay informed of some major diseases and health issues of dogs as a dog owner your information can help your dog to live a good and healthy life.

If you schedule a regular check-up with the doctor it can help you to diagnose health problem and their solutions as early as possible. It also ensures the good health of your dog or pet.

Always consult with a qualified veterinarian for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plans for your dog’s specific needs. With the right care and attention, your beloved furry friend can overcome cherry eye and continue to enjoy a joyful and active life with you.

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