Cherry Eye in Dogs: Treatment Options

Dog with cherry eye

The nictitating membrane is a third eyelid seen in dogs. In the inner corner of the eye, this eyelid sits diagonally. Tear film, which is made up of water, oil, and mucus, lubricates the eye. Each eye contains two glands, one in the third eyelid and one directly above the eye. The gland in the third eyelid is thought to produce between 30 and 60% of the total tear film water, thus it's critical to keep it functioning. This article discusses a disorder that impairs the function of the third eyelid gland, resulting in a decrease in tear film.

What Is Cherry Eye?

The third eyelid can be seen in the regular dog eye on rare occasions. When your pet sleeps or wakes up from a nap, it may be noticeable. After their pet has undergone surgery and is recovering from the anaesthetic, some owners may detect it. Owners will notice a red bloated lump near to the lower eyelid as the third eyelid gland swells and slips out of its rightful location. The phrase "cherry eye" comes from this.

Cherry eye is most common in puppies aged six months to two years. Cocker spaniels, bulldogs, beagles, bloodhounds, Lhasa apsos, mastiffs, Shih Tzus, and other are the most commonly afflicted. Although it is uncommon in cats, it has been documented in and Persian breeds. Cherry eye is, unfortunately, incurable. Knowing what to look for can help with early detection and treatment.

Signs of Cherry Eye in Dogs

  • Oval swelling protruding from the edge of the third eyelid
  • May occur in one or both eyes
  • Epiphora (excessive tear production)
  • Inflammed conjunctiva
  • Blepharospasm (excessive squinting)
  • Dry eye

The initial indication of a cherry eye is generally a red swelling emerging from the third eyelid's border. This can happen in either one or both eyes. Other symptoms may or may not be present in certain dogs. Increased tear production, irritated conjunctiva (a transparent mucous membrane that borders the inner surface of the eyelid and the visible area of the eyeball), and ocular discharge are all possible symptoms for others. They may feel dry eyes if tear production is reduced, which can be uncomfortable.


If you notice your dog pawing at its eyes, or rubbing its face on the floor or carpet, this is a sign there is a problem and you should seek veterinary attention.

What Causes Cherry Eye?

What causes cherry eye is not completely known. We do know that tissue fibers hold the lacrimal (tear) gland of the third eyelid in place. Because some dogs' fibers are weaker, the gland protrudes. The gland of the third eyelid is weakly maintained in place in smaller breeds, particularly Boston terriers, cocker spaniels, bulldogs, and beagles, due to hereditary factors. When the gland prolapses, blood circulation is disrupted. This causes swelling, and the gland may stop producing tears.

What Treatments are Available?

Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory eye treatments to assist reduce swelling when a cherry eye is initially detected. If there is an accompanying discharge, antibiotic eye treatment may be administered. If the cherry eye continues to bother you, surgery will be necessary. The optimum therapy is to replace the gland in its original position. However, if this does not work, the gland may need to be removed.

The Tucking Method

Traditional tucking (also known as tacking) is perhaps the most used approach. This method necessitates the permanent placement of a single stitch that draws the gland back to its proper location. Complications are rare, but they do happen.

  • The tuck may not be anchored well enough to hold permanently. This is the most common complication. A second or even a third tuck may be needed. If this fails, another procedure may need to be used.
  • The surface of the eye can become scratched if the stitch unties, causing pain for your dog. If this happens, the stitch can be removed, but the cherry eye may return.
  • Sometimes the cherry eye is accompanied by other that make the repair more difficult, or less likely to succeed. In these cases, a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist may be necessary.

The Imbrication Method

Imbrication, often known as pocketing, is a relatively new method. A wedge of tissue from immediately over the gland is removed. This procedure is more complex since determining how much tissue to remove might be tricky. To fill the gap, tiny stitches are employed. The gland is pushed back into position by tightening the incision borders. The sutures will ultimately fall out. Complications can include the following:

  • Inflammation or swelling as the stitches dissolve.
  • Inadequate tightening of the tissue gap may lead to recurrence of the cherry eye.
  • Failure of the stitches to hold and associated discomfort. Depending on the type of suture used, loose stitches can injure the eye.

Sometimes, both tucking and imbrication are used to repair the cherry eye. Your veterinarian will determine which method is the best one to use.

Removal of the Third Eyelid Gland

The most common treatment for cherry eye was the removal of the third eyelid gland. This is not the chosen therapy today that we understand the importance of this gland in producing tear film. A thick yellow discharge arises when the third eyelid gland is eliminated and the upper eyelid gland fails to generate appropriate tears. As a result, the eye produces a blinding pigment coating to defend itself. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or simply dry eye, is the name for this disorder. In most cases, dry eye requires lifetime treatment. Blindness can ensue if not addressed.

What Can I Expect After Surgery?

After cherry eye surgery, postoperative edema is fairly prevalent. This should be resolved within a week. Recheck the eye as soon as possible if it becomes uncomfortable or strange in appearance. The recurrence of the cherry eye is not unusual. Make sure you follow all of your veterinarian's post-surgery advice to avoid a protracted recovery and problems.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


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