What is Cherry Eye in Dogs?

Only dog owners know what it truly feels like to have some of the best four-legged companions ever. We treat dogs like they’re family because they feel like family. So when they get sick, we feel the same hurt we would whenever someone close to us gets sick. Dogs can be afflicted with so many different kinds of illnesses, and one part of the body that gets neglected constantly are the eyes. Your dog’s ocular health is quite important because they rely on their vision just as much as we do. Cherry eye is one condition that affects dogs’ eyes and can cause long-term damage if left untreated.

What is cherry eye?

Cherry eye is a condition that affects the nictitating membrane on dog eyes. This membrane is also known as the third eyelid, which acts as a second shield for the eyes. It offers protection from the natural elements such as wind and dust and any other objects small enough to get into your dog’s eyes. Each nictitating membrane has its own tear gland, which is responsible for 35% to 50% of the moisture production in your dog’s eye. You can imagine just how important this membrane is for your dog.

When the connective tissue that holds the tear gland in place becomes weakened, damage, or is just otherwise faulty, the resulting condition is cherry eye. The tear gland in the membrane becomes loose and literally pops out through the bottom corner of your dog’s eye. This is the primary symptom of cherry eye, and it’s something that’s quite hard to miss. If your dog has had cherry eye before, you’d have to be more observant because cherry eye has a likelihood of recurring in dogs that have had it in the past.

What causes cherry eye?

Unfortunately, cherry eye is a genetic condition that is passed down from generation to generation. To this day, the cause of cherry eye is unknown, and its manifestation is quite impossible to predict. What we know is how it actually happens in the eye. We know that the tissues become weak to keep the tear gland in place. However, we’re not sure how it becomes weak to begin with.

However, we do know that some dog breeds are more predisposed to experiencing cherry eye compared to others. Some of the more popular breeds include Basset Hounds, Beagles, Boxers, Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Pugs, Saint Bernards, Shih Tzus, and different kinds of Terriers. While these dogs may be more likely to develop cherry eye, the condition can affect any breed of dog and at any age.

Cherry eye treatment

It’s possible to treat cherry eye at home if it’s caught in the earliest stages. The home treatment method involves the use of a warm moist cloth and some dog-safe eye drops to gently massaged the tear gland that has popped out until it is put back into place. We only recommend doing this if you’re comfortable doing so and if the cherry eye just happened. You can be successful in doing this, but it’s certainly no guarantee that the cherry eye has been treated for good.

Either way, we highly recommend that you take your dog to be seen by a veterinarian. The vet should be able to determine why the cherry eye manifested to begin with, and tackle the situation that way. This consultation should also give you an insight on your dog’s long-term eye health.

There are three possible surgical solutions to treat cherry eye. The first involves stitching the gland back in place. This is only viable if the connective tissue can handle it. Otherwise, the second surgical option involves the creation of a new pocket in the eye to hold the gland in place. There’s also the third option of removing the gland permanently. This will ensure that the cherry eye condition will not happen again, but this option requires that you provide your dog with lifelong lubrication treatment. You will be responsible for giving your dog artificial tears whenever necessary.

If ever cherry eye is left untreated, it could lead to more serious issues down the road. Cherry eye restricts blood flow to the eye, which can lead to irritation and damage. Your dog is also likely to paw or scratch on the irritated eye, which can result to bacterial or viral infections. As long as cherry eye is properly treated and caught early on, further complications should be avoided.

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