If you’re anything like me, your dog is the apple of your eye and one of the world’s favorite creatures. Your dog’s eye health may not be the first thing you think about in the morning, but your dog relies on their eyes just as much as you do. Cherry eye in dogs is a condition that does not affect all puppies, but can affect any dog’s tear production and eye health.
The signs of cherry eye in dogs are easy to spot; Caught and treated quickly, it is possible to reverse the harmful effects. In severe cases, your veterinarian or a veterinary ophthalmologist may need to perform surgery to avoid long-term eye problems. Let’s talk about cherry eye in dogs and how to treat it!
What is cherry eye in dogs?
All dogs have a third eyelid, also called a nictitation membrane, and two glands that produce tears to lubricate their eyes. The nictitation membrane in the lower eyelid is a kind of secondary shield for the eyes. It protects dogs’ eyes from wind, dust and other foreign objects while playing or working. The nictitation membrane has its own tear gland. This lacrimal gland produces between 35 and 50 percent of all moisture in a dog’s eye, so it’s an essential part of overall dog eye health.
Cherry eye in dogs occurs when the connective tissue that holds the gland in place is weak, faulty, or otherwise damaged. The lacrimal gland of the nictitation membrane loosens and falls out of its small pocket and out of the dog’s lower or lower corner of the eye, usually closest to the nose. That bulbous, fleshy, red protrusion of the gland from the lower eye is the main symptom and gives the condition its colorful, fruity nickname. If your dog has or has had a cherry eye, you should be extra vigilant. Extended or recurrent cases of cherry eye in dogs can lead to decreased tear production and other eye problems.
What causes it
Cherry eye in dogs is a congenital disorder that is passed down from generation to generation. Beyond the genetic predisposition, it is still unknown what exactly causes it. We know that the ligaments and connective tissue that hold the lacrimal gland of the nictitation membrane in place don’t hold it in place and that cherry eye is more common in dogs in certain breeds.
Which breeds are more prone to cherry eyes in dogs?
Owners and potential owners of Basset Hounds, Beagles, Bloodhounds, Boxers, Bulldogs (English and French), Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Lhasa Apsos, Neapolitan Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, Pekingese, Poodles (especially miniature), Pugs, St. Bernard, Shar -Peis, Shih Tzus, and Terriers (including Boston Terriers, Bull Terriers, and West Highland White Terriers) should be aware of the increased risk of cherry eyes in these breeds.
Breeds with shorter snouts, and types of toys or teacups in general, are at higher risk for cherry eyes in dogs. However, it can happen to any dog and at any age.
Home treatment for cherry eye in dogs
I got caught early enough and found many online reports of successful cherry eyes massage treatment on dogs. During the treatment with a warm, damp cloth and dog-safe eye drops, the affected dog is calmed down at home and the prolapsed lacrimal gland of the nictitation membrane is gently massaged until it sucks back into place. Even if this technique is successful, there is no guarantee that the cherry eye will be gone for good. It can recur, and a dog who has had cherry eyes in one eye is at greater risk of getting it in the other eye as well.
When should you see a vet about cherry eye in dogs?
The safest bet with cherry eye in dogs is to visit the veterinarian who can pinpoint the specific reason for your dog’s cherry eye. Since there is no fixed cause, early consultation can help ensure your dog’s long-term eye health.
There are three common surgical options. In the first case, the vet may be able to sew the lacrimal gland back on. In other cases, a veterinarian may find the connective tissue too weak to properly weigh the gland. In such situations, the surgeon tries to create a new pocket or envelope to keep it in place permanently.
The third option was the most common over the past few years and involved complete removal of the cherry eye tear gland. Removal of the prolapsed gland is an absolute last resort option. Removal of the affected lacrimal gland requires lifelong follow-up treatment with artificial tears to avoid chronic dry eye and secondary problems that can occur when a dog’s eyes are not properly lubricated.
Long-term effects of cherry eye in dogs
If left untreated, a cherry-eye dog is at greater risk of long-term health problems. The longer the gland has herniated, the greater the risk of the problems associated with it. Proper blood flow to the gland is restricted. The longer the gland is exposed, the longer it can swell. Pawing, scratching, or rubbing the affected eye can further irritate it, creating opportunities for secondary bacterial or viral infections.
In most cases, if caught early enough, the cherry eye in dogs will be successfully treated or treated with minimal veterinary assistance, hopefully before your dog needs surgery.
Thumbnail: Photography © Flickr user Litherland via Creative Commons License. Some size changes have been made to fit this site.
This piece was originally released in 2014.