What is Cherry Eye?

bulldog with cherry eyeHave you thought about the health of your pet’s eyes? Chances are, as long as your dog or cat seems to see okay, you may not have thought much about it.

However, they can be susceptible to eye problems, and one of those eye problems is known as cherry eye.

This unsightly condition gets its name from a reddish mass in the eye. It can protrude from the eye and sits like a red bump in the corner.

It comes from a “third eyelid” called the nictitating membrane. This movable membrane is located behind the lower eyelid. When fully functioning, this eyelid houses a tear gland on he inside of the membrane close to the eye that keeps your pet’s eyes safe from wind and dust. But in the case of dogs and cats who suffer from cherry eye, it becomes very visible as the membrane everts or rolls outward. The gland is red, small and round-hence the name "cherry eye."

As you might expect, it’s not only unattractive, but it can also provide problems for your pet.

Who Gets Cherry Eye?

There are certain breeds that are more prone to cherry eye than others. Those with shorter muzzles like Beagles, Lhasa Apsos, St. Bernards, and teacup breeds are most susceptible.

Cats can get cherry eye too, commonly in Persians and others with a flatter face.

It can happen suddenly, too. One minute your pet’s eyes look normal, and a minute later, there’s a protruding mass.

What Causes Cherry Eye?

The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be an inherited condition that causes the connective tissue to fail. It most often occurs in younger animals under two years old. It may also be related to an injury of the eye that causes inflammation.

How to Treat Cherry Eye in Dogs and Cats

In order to treat it, your veterinarian will assess and make a recommendation. In some cases, using numbing drops, a damp cloth or forceps, and skilled fingers, your veterinarian may be able to work the exposed tear gland back into place.

In other cases, medications may be recommended, and in still others, surgery is the best course of action.

2 Common Surgical Options

Depending on the condition of your pet’s eye, your veterinarian may recommend surgery. There are two common options for treating cherry eye.

1. Stitching It

Sometimes the veterinarian can sew the tear gland into its proper place, actually tacking the third eyelid to the rim of the bony orbit. 

2. Create a New Pocket

When the connective tissue is weak and the tear gland is falling out of your pet’s eye, your veterinarian may be able to create a new pocket to hold it in place.

Successful treatment of cherry eye minimizes the risk of injury to the eye or the risk of a bacterial infection. It also reduces your pet’s discomfort.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cherry Eye?

When the tear duct is exposed for long periods of time, there can be problems. Blood flow is restricted to the gland, which can cause swelling and obstruct your pet’s vision. Your pet may want to paw or rub their eyes, which increases the possibility of infection in the eye. It can lead to redness throughout the eyes, too.

As long as your pet receives professional medical care, recovery is very likely. However, successfully treating cherry eye in one eye doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in the other eye. Your veterinarian will be able to make any special recommendations for treating your pet.

Do you have any questions or concerns about your pet's eye health? Please contact us!


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