Cherry Eye In Dogs
I spy with my little eye something that looks red and swollen! Let’s go over some important facts about cherry eye in dogs and how to fix it.
Did you know your dog has three eyelids? Most people don’t – that is, until Fido develops cherry eye. But let’s go back to that third eyelid… This clear lid is called a nictitating membrane, and it houses the glands that are vital to your dog’s vision through their tear production. So, it turns out this thing you never even knew existed is actually pretty important.
Cherry eye in dogs occurs when this tear gland pops out, so to speak, appearing as a red bulge in the corner of the eye – much like a cherry, hence the condition’s name. When you see it, you’ll know what we’re talking about. The meaty mass is often accompanied by abnormal tearing and oozing.
Cherry eye, or prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid, is quite common in small dogs. The prolapsed gland itself rarely causes discomfort or damage to the eye, so the repair is mostly cosmetic. Most people choose to repair it, because it can have a very unpleasant appearance. If the gland does not return to the normal place with steroid ointment, surgery is the only cure.
A large portion of the eyes tear production comes from the involved gland, so removal can cause a dry eye which can lead to damaged vision. If this does happen, it is controllable with medications, but it is preferable to prevent it. The most successful surgical approach is the technique which tucks the gland down into the conjunctiva. The only risk with this technique is the potential for a small piece of suture to rub the cornea (which is easily fixed by removing the offending suture), and I rarely have recurrences.
Topical versus Surgical Treatment
If caught early, the gland can sometimes be eased back into place using manual massage and manipulation, antibiotics or steroids, and in some cases, cherry eye in dogs sometimes just corrects itself. But in all these cases, since you’re not actually fixing the weakest link, the chances of a relapse prolapse within days or even hours are pretty high. So, either bone up on your eye-massaging abilities, or consider surgical treatment as a more permanent solution to the problem.
The “pocket’ or “envelope” technique tops the charts as the most common procedure, according to the American College of Veterinary Ophthamologists. As the name suggests, it involves cutting a new pocket in the third eyelid, tucking the gland back into place, and stitching the pocket shut to the gland doesn’t sneak back out again. Viola! Alternately, the gland can also be tacked to the orbital rim to secure it in place. Unfortunately, each surgery comes with risks and none offer a 100 percent guarantee that this recurring problem will be corrected once and for all.