What is a Cherry Eye?
Cherry eye is a condition that affects the tear producing gland that is present under the lower eyelid pops out or prolapses. Cherry eye is also called prolapse nictitans gland, or tear gland of the third eyelid, and is a hereditary condition that affects various dog breeds and a few cat breeds. You may notice redness and inflammation in one or both of your pet's eyes. You should address this with your veterinarian because Cherry eye can cause long term issues if overlooked.
The prolapsed gland is easily seen as a bulging red mass protruding from the third eyelid. In some dogs, the third eyelid isn't held down very well into it's normal position. Patients that have one gland prolapse may later have a prolapse in the opposite eye.
Cherry eye is more common in Boxers, Bulldogs, Beagles, Basset Hounds, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels to name a few. These breeds are affected due to their facial confirmation, shape, and short muzzle. Cats rarely develop cherry eye, but it has been seen more in Burmese and Bombay cats.
Treating Cherry Eye
Prolapse of the third eyelid gland is not life threatening condition, many patients endure it for months or even years before the proper treatment. However the inflamed, sensitive tissue of the gland are likely to cause the pet a great deal of discomfort. Cherry eye is treated by a surgical procedure. It is important to preserve the gland and replace it to its natural position under the eyelid.
Long Term Effects of Cherry Eye
Some owners elect to not address the cherry eye as a problem because they feel it is only cosmetic. However the inflammation of the prolapsed tear producing gland and decreased blood flow to the gland caused by its abnormal anatomic position eventually lead to decreased tear production which leads to another condition, keratoconjunctivitis siccs (KCS) or "dry eye" which can be extremely painful for your pet.
Decreased production of the aqueous portion of the tears causes the eye to compensate by increasing the mucoid portion of the tears. This leads to the affected eye becoming gummy and gooey while negatively impacting the corneal health. As a result of this the cornea eventually becomes black due to lack of proper lubrication. This black cornea affects vision.
Dry eye requires lifelong medications, not artificial tears but prescription medications. Artificial tears requires application every 2 hours to be effective which is not practical.