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What Is Cherry Eye in Dogs?

Aimee Labbate
  • Aimee Labbate

  • RCVS: 700039


What is cherry eye in dogs?

Dogs and cats have a third eyelid that helps to protect their eyes and also helps to distribute tears across the surface of the eyes. This thin fleshy membrane sits at the inside corner of the eye and covers the eye when it closes. It has its own gland that produces tears – this gland can sometimes pop out from underneath the third eyelid and can then quickly become inflamed, red and sore. The condition is most common in dogs under 2 years of age and in certain breeds.

What causes cherry eye in dogs?

The tear gland associated with the third eyelid is normally held in position by a ligament that attaches it to the eye socket. However, in some dogs this ligament is weaker than it should be, which may allow the gland to pop up and out of place.

Certain breeds are much more likely to develop cherry eye than other breeds, and so there appears to be an inherited predisposition so it is advised not to breed from affected individuals. In these dogs, both eyes may eventually be affected. Breeds commonly affected by cherry eye include Bulldogs, Beagles, Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, Bull Mastiffs, Great Danes, Lhasa Apsos and Bloodhounds.

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What are the symptoms of cherry eye in dogs?

The symptoms include:

  • Pink bulge at the inner corner of the eye (may come up and disappear again)
  • Rubbing at the eye
  • Unable to fully close the eye

If you have any concerns about your dog’s eyes, then please contact your vet.

How is cherry eye in dogs diagnosed?

The vet will diagnose cherry eye based on the physical examination.

How is cherry eye in dogs treated?

The prolapsed gland can no longer produce tears normally, which can lead to the dog developing dry eye. The gland itself can also become sore and inflamed, so treatment is needed to reposition it and hold it back in place. Sometimes it can be massaged back into position, but this is usually only a temporary fix and it will generally pop out again.

Surgical repositioning under general anaesthetic is usually the treatment of choice, to preserve the tear production in the gland and prevent recurrent prolapse. A special technique is used to hold the gland back in position. However, occasionally this is not possible, and the gland needs to be removed. In these cases the dog must be monitored for the development of dry eye, which can result in irritation to the eye and the formation of corneal ulcers.

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