Causes and Corrections of Cherry Eye in Dogs

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We bought our children a Cocker Spaniel a few years ago. When he was four months old I noticed one day that the inside bottom of his eye looked red and swollen. I thought that he had either scratched his eye, or got something in it. I waited a few days to see if it would get better, but it didn’t. I made an appointment with the veterinarian and that’s when he was diagnosed with cherry eye. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, after that initial appointment he did develop it in his other eye.

The medical term for cherry eye is nictitans gland prolapse, or prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid. What I didn’t know was that unlike humans, dogs have a third eye lid that contains a tear gland. Normally, this gland is not visible, but when the gland comes out (becomes visible) ,and becomes swollen it creates what is known as ‘cherry eye’ . It is thought to be caused by a weakness in the connective tissue that attaches the gland to the surrounding structure of the eye. Although, the exact cause of it seems to be unknown.

After my dog was diagnosed, I did some research online, and found that any breed of dog can develop cherry eye. It doesn’t matter if they are male or female. I also found that there are certain breeds that are more susceptible to getting this condition in both eyes. Some of those breeds include the Beagle, Bulldog, and the Saint Bernard. Although the Cocker Spaniel was not specifically mentioned, my dog did develop it in both of his eyes.

On my dog’s initial visit, it was explained to us that sometimes the eyelid can just simply be popped back in. Our veterinarian did attempt to do this with my dog, but it didn’t hold, and it came right out again. Sometimes injections of steroids are used, but I was told that is not a very common treatment. My veterinarian explained that there were two types of surgeries that could be done. One would be removal of the gland, and the other would be to surgically tuck the gland back in. We were told that we did run the risk of him developing a condition called ‘dry eye’ if we chose to have the gland removed, because he would no longer be able to produce tears. Dry eye or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is a serious condition. We were also informed that if we chose the surgery to have the gland tucked in that there was no guarantee that it would hold.

If your dog is diagnosed with this condition. Talk to your veterinarian about what options are available to you and your dog. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion if you feel one is needed.


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