Cherry Eye in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Cherry Eye in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Cherry Eye in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Cherry Eye?

Cherry eye occurs when the tear gland of the third eyelid begins to protrude and becomes a reddish mass. Though it may look like more of a cosmetic condition than a medical one, the prolapsed lacrimal (tear) gland can become painful, irritated and inflamed. Predisposition to the condition can be seen in the Boxer, Cocker Spaniel, Lhasa Apso, Beagle, Bulldog, Shih-Tzu, Boston Terrier, Saint Bernard and Poodle breeds.

Normally, connective tissue holds the lacrimal gland of your pet’s eye in place. Weakness in the tissue or inflammation in the ocular mucous membranes are two instances that can cause the gland to protrude. For most, it is a genetic defect. Cherry eye can lead to the compromising of the function of the third eyelid. Prolapsed lacrimal glands will most often be seen in dogs under the age of two, but it can occur at any age. It is very important to bring your dog to the clinic if you see indications of a problem within the eye.

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Cherry Eye Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $250 - $2,500

Average Cost

$600

Symptoms of Cherry Eye in Dogs

The most obvious symptom of cherry eye is the red, swollen mass in the corner of the dog’s eye which may appear suddenly. Cherry eye can progress quickly. Your canine companion may rub or paw at his eye which can lead to an infection or bleeding. If you notice a red bulge appearing in your dog’s eye, a veterinary visit is a must.

  • Swollen tear gland and third eyelid
  • There will be the appearance of an oval mass
  • The bulge will be reddish in color
  • The bulge can become irritated and painful if rubbed
  • Your dog may squint if pain is present
  • The eye can become dry due to lack of lubrication
  • There may be swelling around the eye
  • There could be a pus-filled discharge if there is a secondary infection 
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Causes of Cherry Eye in Dogs

Why canines suffer from cherry eye is not well understood. What is known is that the third eyelid plays an important part in tear production. If the cherry eye is not repaired, your dog could develop dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca), which requires the administration of medicated ointment or drops several times daily for life.

  • Weakness of the connective tissue attachment between the third eyelid membrane and tissues around the eye
  • Inflammation in the mucous membrane of the eye
  • Secondary infection of the third eyelid is possible with cherry eye because of exposure to environmental elements and the loss of protective moisture found in the eye
  • Abnormal swelling and thickening prevent the third eyelid from returning to its normal position
  • Brachycephalic breeds (with wide, flat faces) have an eye structure that may require stronger tissues; therefore, we could say they are genetically predisposed to problems with the third eyelid
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Diagnosis of Cherry Eye in Dogs

You may notice that the cherry eye appearance of your dog’s eye may change in severity; at times, it could appear to be improving. However, this is a temporary improvement, and the prolapsing of the eyelid will eventually become a persistent problem. Do not delay in taking your furry companion to the clinic because the bulge can easily become injured or infected. Not dealing with the issue of prolapsed third eyelid will eventually lead to the risk of chronic conjunctivitis, persistent ocular discharge and 'dry eye'.

The veterinarian will do a thorough ocular examination, inspecting all aspects of the eye, to verify if there is a foreign object present and to check for pus related to additional infection. If your dog is a senior, testing may be done to rule out cancer. In general, though, a prolapsed third eyelid is a straightforward diagnosis.

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Treatment of Cherry Eye in Dogs

Prompt treatment of cherry eye will bring the most successful resolution. If the prolapse is apparent for only a day or two, there is a chance that anti-inflammatories (to reduce swelling), and antibiotics may be enough to clear up the issue.

However, relapse is common and in many cases, medical treatment must involve surgical intervention. The most important part of the surgery will be to retain the tear gland. (In the past, the prolapsed lacrimal gland was often removed. Current veterinarian practice avoids this procedure.)

Two procedures are considered. The veterinarian will most likely refer you to an ophthalmologist for the surgery, as they specialize in ocular care. Of course, any infection or irritation will be attended to first, through ointments and antibiotics, before the surgery is scheduled.

  • Suturing the gland in place is one technique. The gland is tacked to the orbital rim
  • The pocket technique is surgery whereby a new pocket is made for the tear gland. The gland is protected by the tunnel put in place, and is tucked into the pocket, and then sutured
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Worried about the cost of Cherry Eye treatment?

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Recovery of Cherry Eye in Dogs

The prognosis for recovery of surgery for prolapsed lacrimal gland is very good. You may see one to two weeks of inflammation before the eye begins to regain its normal appearance, but 7 to 10 days of ointment application and 5 to 10 days of oral antibiotics will assure that the eye heals properly, and infection is avoided.

As with any type of surgery, allow your furry family member to rest in a quiet area for several days. Short leash walks are permitted, but swimming and bathing are prohibited for at least two weeks.

Your dog will be required to wear an Elizabethan collar for a week or two, depending on how fast the eye appears to be healing, and how much your dog is attempting to rub the eye.

The veterinarian will want to check the eye after two weeks, and it is quite possible that an ocular exam will be recommended at every check up in the future. It should be noted that dogs predisposed to the condition are more apt to have a relapse. As well, even with surgery, 20% of canines who had had the cherry eye repaired could develop dry eye in later years. Many dogs develop cherry eye in the other eye going forward.

Cherry eye can be expensive to treat. If  your dog is at risk of developing cherry eye, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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Cherry Eye Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $250 - $2,500

Average Cost

$600

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Cherry Eye Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Kalani

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Boykin Spaniel

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1 Year

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9 found helpful

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9 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Cherry Eye

I adopted a Boykin spaniel (I’m told-she’s a rescue) in November. She was approximately 9-12 months old. The rescues vet (that I dont care for - I’m a former vet tech) has done the cherry eye repair twice. Plus an entropian surgery. The left eye doesn’t look like it took. When I was a tech we removed the gland. So I dont know what this new procedure is supposed to look like. I’m at a loss. She still has conjunctivitis, little discharge and is itchy all over (been on sensitive skin/stomach food for three months with no change). So do I try $100 allergy meds or do I spend $206 for an ophthalmologist specialist to look at her. Single mom here so not sure what to do.

May 16, 2018

Kalani's Owner

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9 Recommendations

The old method of cherry eye surgery where the prolapsed gland was removed lead many patients to get dry eyes from a reduction in tear production since it is responsible for around a third of tear production; the procedure now (pocket technique) is to replace the gland so that it is no longer visible and is still able to function. There is a 10% recurrence rate with this surgery, which may occur at no fault of the Veterinarian; I would recommend to try to keep the gland to prevent any issues later on with a reduction of tear production. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 16, 2018

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Daxx

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pit bull terrier

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17 Months

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3 found helpful

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3 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Disorientation
Discomfort

A few months ago my 1 and a half year old bully (pitbull) had cherry eye removed in both eyes. He hasnt had issues with it since,no drying out or discharge or anything, but we have noticed that when we wipe away his eye boogers he leans his head clear back and stares at the ceiling for 30 seconds or so. Could this be an effect from his cherry eyes being removed?

May 10, 2018

Daxx's Owner

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3 Recommendations

This may be a pain response which may be related to the cherry eye surgery; but without examining Daxx I cannot say for certain. You should keep an eye on this and bring it up with your Veterinarian at Daxx next checkup to determine if there is anything which may need to be looked at more closely. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 11, 2018

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Cherry Eye Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $250 - $2,500

Average Cost

$600

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