Cherry eye can affect any dog, but some are more likely than others to develop it. This condition can appear in just one or both eyes of a dog and it is helpful for a dog owner to know which breeds may be predisposed to it and how it is recognized.
What is cherry eye in dogs?
Many animals, including dogs, have a “third eyelid,” technically called a nictitating membrane. This membrane not only serves as an additional protective layer for your dog’s eye, but it also contains a lacrimal gland vital in the production of tears. Ligaments keep the lacrimal gland securely attached under the eyelid, but when those ligaments tear, the gland can prolapse or pop out. When this happens, your dog will appear to have a small cherry in the inner corner of his eye. This condition, as you may have deduced, is called “cherry eye”. Cherry eye can be transient, meaning it comes and goes, or constant. It can also be in one or both eyes, although just under half of dogs with a cherry eye in one eye will develop in the other eye.
- Cherry eye symptoms in dogs
- Pink lump in the corner of the eye.
- Fingering or rubbing the eye.
- Unable to close my eyes.
A cherry-eyed dog will have a pink or red bump that appears to be protruding from the inner corner of the eye. This lump will not bleed and is not painful, but it is usually quite obvious to the owner. Sometimes the lump will come and go, but other times the cherry eye will be out permanently until veterinary attention is received. However, aside from this obvious pink eye bump, other problems and symptoms your vet may see in a dog with cherry eye include dry eye, corneal ulcers, corneal irritation and inflammation. These conditions will cause the dog to rub his eyes.
Dry eye develops due to a lack of tear production and since the third eyelid is responsible for producing tears, if it is inflamed and does not provide enough tears, the eye will not lubricate properly. This can also cause irritation, inflammation, and even ulcers in the eye, especially if the dog rubs it against the ground. If a cherry eye is large enough, it can also make it difficult or impossible for the dog to close its eyes completely. This can also be a contributing factor to dry eye if it is kept partially open at all times.
The causes of cherry eye in dogs
Professionals don’t fully understand what causes ligaments to tear and cause a dog to develop cherry eye, but there are certain breeds that are more prone than others. These breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Beagles, Pekingese, Maltese, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Shar-Peis, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Bulldogs … The condition is most commonly seen in dogs 2 years and younger, but can develop in any age.
Treatment of cherry eyes in dogs
There are some home remedies that you can try to get the tear gland back under your dog’s eyelid temporarily. These usually involve warm compresses and gentle massage. Unfortunately, even if this keeps the lacrimal gland out for weeks or months, the only curative therapy is surgical.
Unfortunately, surgery can only be performed if the lacrimal gland is actively prolapsed. If your dog’s cherry eye is transient, your vet may choose to wait until it comes out more obviously.
On the other hand, various medications, both oral and ocular, may be prescribed to help control pain and inflammation.
Prevent cherry eye in dogs
Since it is not well known what causes the rupture of the ligaments that hold the nictitating membrane in dogs, it is not known how to prevent it. However, the higher incidence in certain breeds suggests a genetic component. If you are looking to adopt a puppy that is a breed susceptible to cherry eyes, it is good to consider all this information.
If you think your dog suffers from this disease, you can make an appointment with us to examine your four-legged companion.