Cherry Eye In Canines

by Nancy Boland

‘Cherry eye’ or canine nictitans gland prolapse, leads an unpleasant looking but rarely painful condition which affects a small number of dogs at some point of their lives. It is generally considered to be a congenital defect, which causes the dog’s third eyelid, or nictitans gland, to prolapse from its correct place out of sight in the corner of the eye, and protrude over the visible portion of the eyeball.

The visible appearance of cherry eye involves a red mass showing in the inner corner of the eye near the nose, in the area of the tear duct.

Which dogs are vulnerable?

Theoretically, any breed or type of dog can get cherry eye, although it is thought to have hereditary causes and common in breeds such as the Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Bull Terrier, Lhasa Apso, Cocker Spaniel, Saint Bernard, Shar-pei, and the Shih-Tzu.

Signs and symptoms

Cherry eye is usually fairly straightforward to identify and diagnose, and is confirmed by means of a simple physical examination of the dog by your vet.

cherry eye

Treatment options

Depending on the extent of the protrusion, the dog’s previous history with cherry eye and their age and general health, your vet may attempt to correct the problem with anti inflammatory medications, topical antibiotics and manual massage to encourage the gland to return to its correct location. These non-invasive methods are not always successful but can be used to treat some dogs.

Surgical correction

If non-invasive options aren’t successful then surgery is always an option.

Total removal of the affected tear gland can solve the problem, but this removal can also lead to a condition known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, an eye disease associated with dry eyes, which can be painful for your pet.

Surgical repositioning of the tear gland is currently the preferred method of fixing cherry eye and preventing recurrence. Several different surgical techniques and positioning options are available, depending on the age and breed of the dog, their facial structure, cosmetic concerns and the perceived likelihood of recurrence.

This method of surgical intervention aims to leave the tear gland intact and secure it in such a way that a secondary prolapse will not occur.

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