Cherry eye in dogs is a disfiguring, but not painful, condition in which the third eyelid containing a tear gland has prolapsed causing a red bulge in the corner of the eye. For most dogs, cherry eye is only unsightly and not life-threatening. However, many owners don't like the way it changes their dog's appearance and prefer to correct it. There are some home remedies that offer some success.
What is Canine Cherry Eye?
In veterinary terms, cherry eye is known medically as nictitans gland prolapse. In layman's terms, cherry eye means that a dog's third eyelid, located in the corner of its eye, has collapsed out of the protected position it would normally occupy. This collapse exposes the delicate third eyelid, and the tear gland it contains, to dry air and other environmental elements. This causes it to swell and become red, resembling a mini cherry. Veterinarians aren't completely sure what causes the condition, but it is widely suspected by dog care experts that weak connecting tissue between the gland and other parts of the eye are to blame. Whatever the cause may be, it results in a tear gland that does not circulate blood properly and cannot perform its tear-producing function.
Most Susceptible Breeds
While any dog of any breed can develop cherry eye at any age, most dogs that develop this condition do so at a younger age. There are some breeds for which the condition is more common. For instance, the beagle, bloodhound, Boston terrier, bulldog, bull terrier, cocker spaniel, Lhasa apso, poodle, Saint Bernard, Shar-Pei and Shih Tzu are all breeds with higher occurrences. It is common for cherry eye in dogs to occur in both eyes.
How to Treat Cherry Eye in Dogs
Home treatment for cherry eye is a much less expensive, but not always reliable method to fix the problem. Surgical options aimed at treating cherry eye can range up to $1,000, depending on what part of the country you live in. Massage can work to correct canine cherry eye. Dog owners who report success using massage and antibiotic ointments also indicate that they began the process as soon as they noticed the cherry eye. The longer the dog has the condition, the less likely it is that the gland will go back into place without surgical support.
The massage method involves gently closing the dog's outer eyelid and then carefully pushing without using much pressure on the area at the corner of the eye where the cherry is located. The idea is to push gently toward the dog's nose in an attempt to pop the gland back into place. Some dog owners report success after three to four massage sessions; others indicated it took more than a week of massage. Many used warm compresses to ease the process. Frequently, the massage solution is only temporary and the gland pops back out. However, some dog owners report success after repeated tries. A word of caution is necessary to new dog owners: The area being massaged is very delicate and mishandling can result in damage to the eyeball if not done properly.
Unfortunately, cherry eye in dogs often requires surgery to correct the problem. There are a few different options to consider. Up until recently, veterinary ophthalmologists routinely removed the offending tear gland. As the gland in the third eyelid produces approximately 30 percent of the total tears in a dog's eye, this removal can lead to dry eye and require daily eye drops to combat its effect on the dog. The other surgical option involves repositioning the gland. This is not always successful and some dog owners report repetitive surgeries were necessary to accomplish the goal of putting the gland back into place.
After Cherry Eye Surgery
If surgery is required, the biggest post operative issue is keeping the pet from scratching at the eye. This is because the healing process involves swelling and itching. Most veterinarians will provide a cone-like collar that will fit around the dog's neck and surround his neck and face in a cylinder-like fashion. This keeps the dog from being able to scratch at its face, but it also can hinder eating and drinking. Caretakers should monitor the dog while it eats and drinks and replace the collar immediately when the dog finishes. Healing can take up to two weeks and it is important to keep the dog's activity level at a minimum.