The cherry eye in dogs is a prolapse of the gland located at the dog’s eyelid. The third eyelid usually protects the eye, but sometimes it moves out of place and becomes irritated.
Vets are still unsure about the proper cause of this health condition. However, some dog breeds, including American Cocker Spaniels and Bulldogs, are more prone to this condition. But it most likely develops in young dogs and can lead to further complications if left untreated.
It is helpful for dog owners to know about the potential causes and symptoms of this condition. Here is how you can recognize the signs of the cherry eye in dogs. It will help you treat the disease properly by reducing the damage.
What is a Cherry Eye in Dogs?
Cherry eye is another name for the following medication conditions:
- Prolapsed nictitating membrane
- Prolapsed third eyelid
- Third eyelid gland prolapse
Unlike humans, dogs have two or three eyelids for each eye. The third eyelid is a fleshy pink part next to the dog’s lower eyelid in the eye socket. It is a flap of tissue containing a gland that secretes tears but is not usually seen.
Typically, it is flat and against the corner of the eye socket. But sometimes, the ligament that holds the gland in place stretches and detaches from the orbital bone. It further gets enlarged swollen red mass and protrudes outside in the dogs having a cherry eye. This makes it visible abnormally when the dog sleeps or wakes up from a nap.
Breeds More Prone to Cherry Eye
This condition can happen to any dog, but a few factors make some dog breeds more prone to the cherry eye. These include the following:
- Basset Hounds
- Saint Bernards
- English Bulldogs
- Cocker Spaniels
- Cane Corso
- Teacup Breeds
- Lhasa Apsos
Wondering if the cherry eye in dogs is genetic? Yes, certain breeds have a genetic predisposition to this condition, usually within the first year of life. Moreover, breeds with short muzzles and young dogs also suffer from the cherry eye than their longer-nosed and full-sized counterparts.
Cherry Eye in Dogs Symptoms
The following are some potential signs and symptoms of cherry eye in dogs.
- The pink bulge in the corner of the eye
- May occur in one or both eyes
- Epiphora (excessive tear production)
- Inflamed conjunctiva
- Blepharospasm (excessive squinting)
- Dry eye
- Pawing or rubbing at the eye
- Corneal ulcers
- Irritation in the eye
- Unable to close eye
- Trauma to the eye
- Loss of vision
- Loss of eye itself
Early-stage cherry eyes in dogs are very easy to spot. A red swelling protruding at the edge of the third eyelid is the first symptom. It may not be bleeding and painful but is very obvious to the owner.
Sometimes this mild cherry eye in dogs may come and go, while other times, it will be out permanently until treated properly. Furthermore, the tear gland in the third eyelid is responsible for almost 40 percent of the tear production. When prolapses occur, the tear film duct does not function normally.
What Causes Cherry Eyes in Dogs?
The causes of the cherry eye are not completely identified, but it mainly occurs in dogs under one year of age. However, it is believed that it is mainly caused when a tear-producing gland becomes displaced from its normal position.
Typically, the gland is held in position by a ligament, but in some breeds, the attachment is relatively weak, allowing the gland to pop up out of position. It leads to irritation and is less able to produce tears.
Similarly, in small dog breeds such as Boston terriers, cocker spaniels, bulldogs, and beagles, the gland of the third eyelid is not strongly held because of genetic reasons. Thus, the blood does not circulate properly when the gland prolapses. In return, it results in swelling and pain.
Diagnosing Cherry Eye in Dogs
If you notice any of the symptoms given above in your dog’s eyes, you must contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. It is because the condition can cause serious health concerns over time.
When you visit the vet, he will diagnose the cherry eye by examining the dog’s eyes. He needs to check whether it is an early stage cherry eye in dog or a late one. The diagnosis is based on a clinical appearance of a cherry eye, especially in young dogs and some breeds. You can also perform a series of diagnoses to identify the overall health of the eye.
For the exposed third eyelid gland, the vet may perform a Schirmer tear test. It is used to determine the dog’s tear production by ensuring that it does not have a dry eye.
Secondly, the vet may also recommend a fluorescein stain test to check for scratches on the cornea. Though these corneal scratches are not painful. However, they can lead to ulceration, infection, and perforation if the cherry eye in dogs is left untreated.
Cherry Eye Treatment - How to Treat Cherry Eyes in Dogs?
After the successful diagnosis, the vet may recommend anti-inflammatory eye drops for a cherry eye in dogs. It will help to reduce the swelling. Moreover, antibiotic eye medicines may also be prescribed if there is excessive discharge.
Nevertheless, if the condition prevails and causes discomfort, the surgery is the final step. The best treatment for this includes the surgical replacement of the gland in its proper location. If it is successful, the gland may need to be removed.
Below are the three methods to treat cherry eyes in dogs.
“How do you treat cherry eyes in dogs?”
Let’s discuss these treatment methods in detail.
1. The Tucking Method
The traditional tucking method (also called tacking) is one of the most common cherry eye in dogs home treatment. This method requires placing a single stitch permanently and then drawing the gland back where it belongs. It can lead to the following complications:
- Sometimes the tuck may not be anchored well enough, and a second or third tuck is needed. A different procedure should be used if the reposition of the gland fails.
- The surface of your dog's eye can become scratched if the stitches untie, causing pain. If this happens, you may remove the stitch. But it would be best to consult a vet before doing this because it may again cause a cherry eye.
- A pet with a cherry eye may also suffer from other eyelid issues. This can make the surgery more difficult or less likely to succeed. In these cases, a visit to an ophthalmologist is considered to be a better option.
2. The Imbrication Method
An imbrication is a new technique known as ‘pocketing.’ Here, a wedge of tissue is removed from the gland. This technique is a challenge because it becomes difficult to determine how much tissue should be removed.
Tiny stitches are used to close the gap, and tightening margins push the gland back in place. In return, the stitching eventually dissolves after it’s been absorbed by your body's natural enzymes or metabolized through the bloodstream.
Here are a few complications that may occur with this method:
- Swelling or inflammation as the stitches dissolve.
- Tightening of the tissue gap may again lead to the cherry eye.
- If the stitches fail to hold, they may cause discomfort.
- Loose stitches may injure the eye of your dog.
Both the imbrication and tucking methods are used to treat the cherry eye. The vet will determine which is the best method to use based on your dog’s condition.
3. Removal of the Third Eyelid Gland
Removal of the gland used to be one of the most popular remedies for cherry eye. Now that we know how important the third eyelid gland is, it is not the preferred surgical technique.
If the third eyelid is removed, the upper eyelid glands will fail to produce enough tears. It will result in a thick yellow discharge which can lead to inflammation and blindness over time. This condition is called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye, and it requires long-term medication.
What to Expect After Surgery?
Most commonly, dogs suffer from postoperative swelling after the cherry eye surgical treatment. It should resolve in a week but if the eye becomes painful, get it checked by the vet again. Sometimes, the dog may develop the cherry eye again. Therefore, make sure to follow the vet’s post-surgery instructions to avoid any further complications.
Different medications, both oral and ocular, are prescribed to manage pain, inflammation, and infection. An E-collar should be worn until the eye has completely healed. Moreover, the vet may also monitor the tear production after surgery. If the dog has a dry eye, it will require lifelong eye medication.
Surgery Cost for Cherry Eye in Dogs
The cost of the cherry eye in dogs surgery depends on the following factors:
- The extent of the condition.
- The health of the dog pet.
- If the prolapse is in one or both eyes.
However, a pet owner can expect the average cost of the surgery to be around $300 to $500 for one eye and up to $800 for both eyes.
Following this, some larger dogs may require more medication like anesthesia that may often increase the price. Similarly, if your pet is receiving surgery from a specialized veterinary ophthalmologist, or if he requires medicine for pain, the bill will be higher.
The Prognosis for Dogs with Cherry Eye
It is important to understand that a cherry eye is not life-threatening. A lot of dogs go on to survive this condition all their lives. If you are wondering about getting a dog with a cherry eye, consider the following things:
Cherry eyes in dogs are not contagious, so it does not possess any threats to you or other pets. This condition is not caused by contagion and cannot spread from one animal to another. However, the breeders may consult the vets if the dog has a history of cherry eyes. It will help to avoid passing the condition to the offspring.
Remember, cherry eye is not an infectious disease. Thus, there is no vaccine for the condition.
How to Prevent Cherry Eye in Dogs - Home Remedies
It is unlikely to prevent cherry eyes in dogs, but it can temporarily be cured with a healthy diet and proper exercise.
Here are some successful and simple steps to treat your dog’s cherry eyes yourself at home.
- The first thing is to rest your dog on his back.
- After identifying the infection, do not panic and act calmly.
- Also, calm your dog with a back rub, ear massage, or kisses.
- Instruct him to lie down and gently roll the dog onto his back.
- Ask him to close his eyes.
- Roll the dog’s back over so that he should open his eyes.
- Place a warm cloth over the eye to stimulate tear production.
- You can also use ice well-wrapped in a cloth.
- Slowly massage the area where the gland has protruded.
- Remove the cloth to check if the eye looks lubricated.
- You can also use eye drops so that it looks sufficiently lubricated.
- Gently move your thumb over the dog’s eyelid. Move it from the center of the eye towards the corner nearest the nose.
- Repeat this step seven times to move the protrusion back into place.
- Continue massaging the eye gently.
These steps will prevent the gland from popping out in the next few minutes or hours. However, this method does not guarantee that the dog will not suffer from any further occurrences of the cherry eye.
If these steps prove to be unsuccessful for more than a week, consult the vet. The longer it will take to fix cherry eyes in dogs, the more damage it will cause.
If you have an emotional support animal and he is suffering from cherry eyes, this guide will help you understand the causes and symptoms. Follow the tips given above to spend quality time with your dog pet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a cherry eye in dogs correct itself?
It is believed that the cherry eye can be cured by massaging the eye carefully. Sometimes, it may correct itself on its own or after a course of medication.
How do you massage a dog's cherry eye?
Massage treatment can be applied to a dog’s eye with a downward-diagonal massage of the affected area. It will help to return the third eyelid into place and reduce irritation.
How long does it take for the cherry eye to heal?
It almost takes two weeks for the cherry eye to heal after the surgical treatment.
Can cherry eyes be caused by trauma?
Yes, the cherry eye may occur when a third eyelid becomes inflamed with infection due to trauma.
Can a dog's cherry eye go away on its own?
No, usually surgeries are always necessary. But if it is caught early and the vet prescribes a treatment plan for inflammation, surgery may not be needed.
How serious is cherry eye in dogs?
A cherry eye is bad. It will cause pain, eye infections and dry eyes. This can even lead to blindness or something that looks like a black spot on the eye. The treatment for this is surgery.
What causes a dog to get cherry eyes?
Cherry eye often happens in dogs who are less than a year old. This is when the small ligament that holds the third eyelid gland in place either stretches or breaks. Veterinarians don't know why this happens, but it usually needs to be fixed with surgery.