Treatment for Cherry Eye


My 5-year-old shnauzer-shih tzu mix, Reggie, has been diagnosed by our vet with cherry eye. Since it comes and goes, the doctor doesn’t want to do surgery. She said the condition doesn’t interfere with his vision or hurt him, so all we do is put plain eye drops in his eye. But do you have any other suggestions to minimize the swelling and redness? Thank you.

Barbara Porch
Floral City, Florida

Dear Ms. Porch,
Cherry eye, which looks like a red or pink bulge at the inner corner of an eye, can in fact feel irritating to a dog. It also interferes with blinking, which can be uncomfortable in itself. Imagine if it bothered you every single time you tried to blink. The condition can bring about other problems as well.

Consider that cherry eye results when the tear gland of a dog’s third eyelid (they have three eyelids instead of two) prolapses, or slips forward. When it pops out of position like that and the gland protrudes, it becomes scarred or inflamed. That in turn causes a drop in tear production. The gland of the third eyelid is responsible for 40 to 50 percent of the normal production of tears that keep the eye properly lubricated, and when it’s not secured properly, the resulting dry eye is a significant concern. It is very uncomfortable and can eventually even lead to vision loss.

As to your question about treating swelling, it becomes more likely the longer the tear gland is exposed. That makes a dog more apt to start rubbing at his eye, causing the gland to bleed or become infected.

If a dog’s third eyelid pops out and subsequently back into place once or twice and then stays there, surgery is not necessary. But that doesn’t sound like Reggie’s situation, and the eye drops you give him — perhaps a topical lubricating preparation — are not going to solve the problem.

A surgeon can reposition his gland by making a pocket for it in the tissues below. The success rate for this procedure is very high, says Tufts veterinary ophthalmologist Stephanie Pumphrey, DVM.

It is not surprising that Reggie is prone to cherry eye, by the way. Shih tzus are a commonly affected breed, as are cocker spaniels, Lhasa apsos, poodles, beagles, and bulldogs.


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