Dogs can suffer from various eye conditions and Cherry Eye is one of the most common ones. In this article, we will explain what Cherry Eye is. What the symptoms of Cherry Eye are and how to treat Cherry Eye in dogs.
What Is Cherry Eye in Dogs?
Cherry Eye is a commonly used term for a prolapsed eye gland, specifically prolapsed nictitating membrane in dogs and cats. To fully understand this, we need to take a closer look at the canine eye structure and how they develop cherry eye
Unlike humans, all dogs have a third eyelid that is located in the lower eyelid. This third eyelid is called the nictitating membrane. It provides additional protection of the eye, especially during fighting or hunting. The nictitating membrane also contains a special tear gland that supplies moisture to the eyes. Effectively producing a major portion of protective tear film in the eyes.
Cherry Eye in dogs occurs when this special gland in the nictitating membrane “pops out” or prolapses. This can make the entire area appear swollen, inflamed, and red. Hence the term Cherry Eye for this condition. It commonly starts in the corner of the eye.
Who’s at Risk?
Although all dog breeds can get Cherry Eye, some breeds are more prone to this condition than others. Dog breeds that are more likely to get Cherry Eye are Shih Tzus, Shar Pei, English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, American Cocker Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Pugs.
Additionally, this condition more commonly affects young dogs but it is not considered to be a genetic problem because there is no proof of inheritance. In fact, this condition can appear suddenly, without any known cause. Your dog may be sleeping peacefully in his bed at one moment and show signs of Cherry Eye once he wakes up.
What Are the Symptoms of Cherry Eye in Dogs?
Cherry Eye in dogs can be recognized easily since the signs are quite obvious and prominent. The most obvious sign of this condition is a fleshy, round, red-colored mass in the inside corner of the affected eye, or eyes, if both are affected. This resembles a cherry a bit and that’s where the condition got its unofficial name.
Other symptoms include abnormal tear production and discharge from the eye. Cherry Eye leads to overproduction of tears at first but then leads to underproduction of tears. Although it can look scary, this condition is not painful for dogs.
Treatment of Cherry Eye in Dogs
If you notice any of the symptoms of Cherry Eye put your dog in his carrier and take him to your vet. He may treat your dog himself but it is more likely that he will recommend a veterinary ophthalmologist, possibly at a local animal hospital. Time is of the essence here – a prolapsed gland can have long term consequences like dry eye, conjunctivitis and tear film problems if left untreated.
If caught early, Cherry Eye can be treated with a special message of the affected eye. In some cases, Cherry Eye can resolve on its own or with the administration of steroids and antibiotics. Additionally, topical medication can also reduce inflammation and prevent secondary infections that may arise from this condition. However, the most common course of treatment for Cherry Eye is surgery.
There are a few types of surgery performed to treat Cherry Eye. One of them creates a pocket by sewing the tissue around the prolapsed gland, after which the pocket is encased in a layer of the conjunctiva. This surgery is the safest and most common.
Another potential method is to perform surgery to reposition the eyelid but this task is not always completed successfully. The biggest risk of this surgery is the potential recurrence of Cherry Eye or additional problems with the sutures.
There is also surgical removal of the gland in the third eyelid, which is a quick and safe procedure as well. However, surgically removing the gland can cause a chronic dry eye in aging dogs. Additionally, the dog will most likely have to be treated with moisturizing eye drops for the rest of his life after this surgery.
Cherry Eye in dogs is a relatively common issue, especially in young dogs and certain breeds. While this condition can be treated easily if caught early, more severe cases may have to be treated surgically.
To prevent this from happening, it is important to react quickly and get your dog to the vet as soon as you notice the symptoms such as redness, inflammation and swelling of the eye.
If you would like to read about conjunctivitis in dogs and how to deal with it, click the link here.