Cherry Eye in Dogs: 
Diagnosis and Treatment

Cherry eye in dogs is the term commonly used when the tear gland of the third eyelid prolapses or moves out of place.

Snapshot: Cherry Eye
Here's a quick overview if you're in a hurry. Come back later when you have time to read the complete guide.

  • Symptoms: A red circular or oval mass in the inner corner of the dog's eye. You might mistake it for a tumor, which is why you need a veterinarian's diagnosis.
  • Diagnosis: A veterinarian can tell by examining a dog if he has prolapse of the tear gland, commonly called cherry eye.
  • Causes: Cherry eye in dogs is a fairly common congential defect. It is seen in beagles, Boston terrier, bulldogs, chihuahuas, cocker spaniels, Pekingese, Neapolitan mastiffs and basset hounds. Cherry eye does appear in other breeds, but not as often.
  • Treatment: Surgery is used to place the gland back in its orginal position. This has an 80% success rate in most dogs.

Symptoms of Cherry Eye

Copyright© Joel Mills 2007 Prolapsed gland of the third eyelid, also known as cherry eye in dogs.

Cherry eye appears as a red circular or oval mass in the inner corner of the dog's eye. No longer in its proper place, the gland does not circulate blood as it normaly does and may swell. You might mistake it for a tumor, which is why you need a veterinarian's diagnosis.

A veterinarian will be able to diagnose this condition after examining the dog's eye.

Causes of Cherry Eye in Dogs

Cherry eye is a common inherited condition in certain breeds; beagles, bulldogs, chihuahuas, cocker spaniels, Pekingese, Neapolitan mastiffs and basset hounds. In some smaller breeds, the tear gland of the third eye is not well attached, so the gland prolapses or moves. This is sometimes seen in Boston terriers and cocker spaniels.

Treatment

Repairing this condition is not merely a matter of cosmetics. Yes, your dog will be more attractive if the bulging gland is repositioned.But more importantly, your dog will enjoy better eye health.

Following the appearance of cherry eye, the eye will be continuously inflamed, causing your dog at least small discomfort, but more likely, major discomfort and/or pain.The prolapsed gland that causes cherry eye in dogs is responsible for a large amount of tear production.

Once this condition appears, the eye will begin to suffer from dryness known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca.This condition is uncomfortable for the dog and administering daily treatment can be frustrating and time-consuming for the dog's caregiver. Surgery, the only viable treatment for cherry eye in dogs, can be performed by any veterinarian. In the most common procedure known as the tucking method, a stitch is used to hold the gland in its original position. While complications are infrequent, one common fault of this procedure is that the stitch does not hold and the cherry eye returns. If this occurs, you may want to consider having a veterinary ophthalmologist (eye specialist) perform a second surgery to increase the likelihood that the second surgery will be a permanent success.

My experience

One of our foster dogs, a pit bull named Noah, had this condition when he came to us. Our veterinarian performed surgery to re-place the gland into position. The cherry eye has not returned and Noah lives the life of a very happy dog. In our rescue, we have maybe one foster dog per year with this affliction, including a dachshund and poodle. Both had the same surgery as Noah and have since been adopted. Through my experience, I would say this condition is somewhat common but happily there is a reliable surgery to resolve it.

Please keep in mind, the information on this web site is for educational purposes. It is always essential to contact your veterinarian if your canine friend "is not himself."

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