Cherry eye in dogs

4 Puggle puppies on a red blanket

Cherry eye is the layman’s term for a prolapse of the nictitans gland in dogs. The nictitans gland is located near the inner canthus of the eye and during cherry eye the nictitating membrane prolapses and is able to be seen protruding in the corner of the eye. Cherry eye looks like a red lump in the inner corner of the eye and although it looks like a painful red lump, it is thought to be painless. Many owners often fear the worst and mistake it for a tumour. If left untreated the eye can become inflamed and produce a runny discharge. If the prolapse is large enough for the dog to see it, they may rub or paw it further inflaming and irritating the eye. Cherry eye usually only affects a single eye but in some cases can affect both eyes at the same time or some months apart.

Which breeds are most susceptible to cherry eye?

The breeds which are most susceptible to cherry eye are the Bulldog and Mastiff breeds, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Pekingese, and Basset Hounds. Some designer breeds can also be affected such as the Puggle and Beaglier due to their Beagle heritage. Any breed of dog is capable of having cherry eye but most cherry eye cases are in puppies. Cherry eye is a common ailment among dogs and even in some breeds of cat.

What causes cherry eye?

The exact causes of cherry eye are not completely known but there is believed to be a genetic or inherited component to the cause. Mostly it is attributed to a weakness in the connective tissue surrounding the nictitans gland but some cherry eye cases may be related to trauma to the gland from a siblings nail hooking the tissue during play. Cherry eye may also be a result of the particular facial features of some breeds.

How is cherry eye treated?

Surgery is the only long term option to treat cherry eye. Some people have treated the condition themselves by pushing the gland back into position and holding it there for a minute or so but this is at best a temporary solution and at worst may result in greater injury to the affected eye. Modern methods of cherry eye correction involve repositioning the gland to its normal location with a success rate of over 80% in most breeds.


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