'Cherry Eye' needs diagnosing and treating

How do I know if my dog has cherry eye? A lump appearing on a dog’s eye is a cause for concern. The most common lump near the eye in young dogs is ‘Cherry Eye’. ‘Cherry Eye’ is easy for your vet to diagnose but can be tricky to treat.

The third eyelid and tear glands

Dogs have a third eyelid, properly called the nictitating membrane, which sits in the inside corner of their eye. Only the edge of this third eyelid is normally visible, but it is more obvious in dogs with deep-set eyes, or if the edge of the membrane is unpigmented. The third eyelid contains a gland which produces the major portion of the tear film that cleans and protects the eye.

Dog taking a break while out on a walk

What happens in ‘Cherry Eye’?

The nictitans gland can become inflamed and pop out of its usual position, causing a pea-sized, pink to red round swelling in the inside corner of a dog's eye. The swelling is known as 'Cherry Eye' because it resembles a small cherry; however, Vets formally call it a prolapsed nictitans gland.

Which dogs are more prone to ‘Cherry Eye’?

Brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds such as Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs are more prone to 'Cherry Eye'. In addition, breeds with loose eyelids such as Mastiff types and Spaniels are also more prone to 'Cherry Eye'.

Labrador happy at home

What do I do if I think my dog has ‘Cherry Eye’?

A vet should check any dog with suspected 'Cherry Eye'. A vet will be able to diagnose it, in most cases, from a physical examination.

The exposed gland can become dry and damaged, leading to reduced tear production and sore eyes for the dog. Initially the vet might prescribe anti-inflammatory and lubricating drops to reduce pain and swelling.

Most dogs require surgery to reposition the gland and anchor it back into the correct place. Sometimes the gland prolapses again. Subsequently, if surgery fails more than once and the gland is painful it should be removed. However, most dogs suffer from ‘dry eye’ and have insufficient tear production if the gland is removed.

Out enjoying a walk

This is painful and leads to recurrent eye infections. Dogs that have their tear gland removed will need lubricating drops several times a day for the rest of their lives.

What else could a lump near my dog's eye be?

'Cherry Eye' isn't the only cause of a lump in a dog's eye. Older dogs can get cysts, as well as warts, around the eyelid margins. Tumours can develop anywhere around the eyelid margins, but also in the third eyelid gland.

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