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Cherry eye in dogs and cats

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If your pet shows any sign of cherry eye, you should have your veterinarian check it as soon as possible. Many mammals, including dogs and cats, have an extra or "third eyelid" that can sometimes be seen at the inside corner of the eye (nearest the muzzle).  It serves as an additional layer of protection for the eye, and it contains a gland that produces much of the tear film.  This gland can prolapse or "pop out," resulting in a condition often called "cherry eye."  It is most common in cocker spaniels, bulldogs, beagles, bloodhounds, Lhasa apsos, Shih tzus, and other breeds with "squished" faces.  It has also been seen in Burmese and Persian cats.

Cherry eye shows up as a red swollen mass (that resembles a cherry) on the eye near the nose or muzzle.  The "cherry eye" may cover a large portion of the cornea, or it may be small and appear only once in a while. 

Treatment is surgical.  The third eyelid is put back into its normal location and anchored there by stitches.  The condition should be treated as soon as possible to minimize damage to the gland and preserve the ability to produce tears.  Dogs with inadequate tear production are much more likely to develop "dry eye," which can seriously affect vision.

Usually, the gland returns to normal function within a few weeks after surgery, but additional surgery may be needed in up to 25 percent of cases.  If the problem is severe or long-term, the gland may need to be completely removed, with follow-up treatment for the dry eye condition that is likely to develop.

Q&A

What is cherry eye in dogs and cats?

Cherry eye is the common name for prolapse of the gland on the third eyelid.  This gland pops out and becomes engorged with blood, looking much like a small cherry in the inside corner of the eye.


What pets get cherry eye?

Cherry eye can occur in any dog, but it is most common in cocker spaniels, bulldogs, beagles, bloodhounds, Lhasa apsos, Shih tzus, and other breeds with “squished” faces.  It has also been seen in Burmese and Persian cats.


Is there a permanent solution for cherry eye in my pet?

Surgical treatment can be used to put the gland back into its normal location and anchor it in place with stitches.  This usually solves the problem, although one quarter of pets need a second surgery.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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