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Cherry Eye Understanding Your Pet's Medical Diagnosis

What is cherry eye?

The third eyelid is a triangular-shaped flap in the eyelid opening closest to the nose. It protects the eye and helps distribute tears. The edge of the third eyelid has a t-shaped piece of cartilage that provides support and conforms the third eyelid to the eyeball surface. The third eyelid also has a gland that produces almost 50% of the tears. Normally, this gland of the third eyelid is tucked away below the eyelid and is not noticeable. Cherry eye, or prolapsed gland of the third eyelid, is a condition whereby this gland pops out (prolapses), resulting in a large swelling of the third eyelid. When the gland pops out, it usually becomes red and angry looking, thus the name "cherry." Cherry eye tends to affect both eyes but not always at the same time.

What causes cherry eye?

Cherry eye occurs when the tissue band that holds the gland of the third eyelid in place weakens, allowing the gland to pop out. Many breeds of dog are predisposed to displacement of this gland (for example, American cocker spaniel, Boston terrier, bulldog, Lhasa apso, St. Bernard, and mastiff).

What are the signs of cherry eye?

The swelling, which is adjacent to the eyeball on the third eyelid, appears round and bright red round and looks like a cherry!

How is "cherry eye" diagnosed?

Cherry eye is diagnosed by observing a typical cherry eye appearance.

How is cherry eye treated?

Because the gland of the third eyelid produces up to 50% of the tears, preserving this gland is important to help prevent dry eyes. The eye quickly becomes irritated if the tear production falls below a certain level. Returning the swollen gland to its normal position helps preserve tear production as well as prevent complications. Your veterinarian can surgically reposition the gland by a procedure called imbrication, which means tacking. Removal of the gland is not recommended. Several breeds of dog predisposed to cherry eye are also prone to developing "dry eye" (keratoconjunctivitis sicca), and removal of the gland increases the risk of dry eye.

Some owners "pop" the gland back into place, but this is not recommended. This manipulation can result in a scrape (ulcer) on the surface of the eye and, since the underlying weak tissue band is not repaired, cherry eye would probably recur.

What is the prognosis for animals with cherry eye?

If the surgery is performed quickly before the gland is irreversibly damaged, the prognosis is generally good. The success rate of surgical repositioning the gland is approximately 90%. Some breeds of dogs such as bulldog and mastiff) have a greater risk of recurrence.


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