Cherry eye in dogs can often be sudden, and understandably causes panic in pet owners when you are unsure of what this frightening new growth is. A bright red mass like structure protruding from your pet’s eye can be extremely alarming, to say the least. When taken seriously, cherry eye is a treatable condition. It is important to act sooner than later, as the treatment for this condition is more likely when acted on immediately.
What Is Cherry Eye in Dogs?
Cherry eye is a common term for the prolapse of the third eyelid gland. It can present as a minor inflammation in the inner corner of the eye, all the way to a large mass like structure that’s protruding from the white portion of the eye. The purpose of a dog’s third eyelid is to serve additional protection to the eye itself and to help in producing lubrication for the eye. When this “extra” eyelid becomes inflamed and protrudes, it is then called a cherry eye. The red like structure peeking over the white portion of the eye is how the condition got its name!
Which breeds are most often affected by cherry eye?
Cherry eye can affect any breed of dog, but there are some breeds who are more at risk. Those most commonly affected are Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Bulldogs, Bloodhounds, Shih Tzus, and other “squished faced” (brachiocephalic) breeds. Just because your dog’s breed is not listed does not mean that your pet isn’t at risk. Cherry eye can cause serious complications for your pet, so it is important to know the signs to look for!
What are the symptoms of a cherry eye?
- The obvious red tissue protrusion in the eye.
- Discharge from the eye
- Squinting of the eye, or pawing at the eye.
- Eye redness
- Swelling in the eye area
- Impaired vision
- Any changes in the appearance of the eye
- Any other symptom that causes concern with the pet owner is possible!
What Causes Cherry Eye in dogs?
Cherry eye occurs when the tissue that attaches the tear gland becomes weakened. When this anchor is compromised, the tear gland can protrude from its original placement, causing the red protrusion over the white portion of the eye. Though many have come to the conclusion that cherry eye is caused by this weakened tissue, many are still unsure of what the exact cause is behind the weakening.
Because some breeds are more at risk, there has been a genetic component linked to this. The breeds listed above have been found to have weakened tissue in the eye, meaning they have a higher chance of being victims to the cherry eye. While there is a genetic component, any dog can be at risk.
Can Cherry Eye Be Treated?
The fast action of a pet owner is the key to the likelihood of success when it comes to treatment. Just like many other conditions, when a cherry eye is left untreated, it can cause more complications for the pet. Impaired vision, chronic dry eye, and pain are common complications of an ignored cherry eye. There are a few options when it comes to the treatment of a cherry eye.
Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories
While surgery is the recommended option for cherry eye, there are some approaches that can be taken as a first stitch effort. A veterinarian can prescribe your pet topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in an effort to reduce inflammation and prevent any secondary infections as a result of the cherry eye. While this is not a cure for the condition and it will most often reoccur, it can be done if surgery is not an option immediately.
Cherry eye surgery
There are a couple of different approaches to a cherry eye revision. The first option is to reposition the gland and stitch it back into place. This is the ideal option since the pet will still have the gland itself that helps to lubricate the eye. Lubrication of your pet’s eye is necessary for its normal function. Without this gland, chronic dry eye will be inevitable for your pet. In the past, complete removal of the gland was the standard treatment.
It is now most known as a last-stitch effort, since removing the gland will cause chronic dry eye that will need to be managed with daily eye drops for the rest of the pet’s life. It is always possible to have a reoccurrence of the cherry eye with the first surgical approach, but many pet owners choose to take that route first and avoid daily management with eye drops. This isn’t the end of the world, but it does make you and your pet’s life a bit more challenging with daily medications.
What Is The Prognosis Of This Condition?
Overall, the prognosis of your pet’s full recovery is extremely likely when treated quickly and effectively! When the procedure to reposition the gland is performed, most pets find that their eyes return to full comfort and function. Remember that if you choose to take the route of removal of the gland, you will need to be prepared to administer eye drops to your pet’s eye daily to prevent chronic dry eye.
When pet owners are compliant with the routine of giving daily eye drops, your pet can live life normally as well! Cherry eye is definitely not a life-threatening condition, but it does need to be taken seriously if you want your pet to recover fully.
Cherry eye can be a daunting condition. The concern of the possibility of vision impairment, pain, and further complications is a valid concern. Just know that when this condition is taken seriously and acted on immediately, there is no reason to believe that your pet cannot return to a normal life. If you discover that your pet’s eye has a new inflamed addition, keep calm, and contact your veterinarian. They will have all the tools needed to point you in the right direction to a cure for your pet’s current predicament!
I’m a Licensed Vet Tech with a passion to spread awareness for animal welfare and knowledge as far and often as I can!