Cherry Eye (Eyelid Protrusion)

Pets suffering from a prolapsed gland of the third eyelid, or cherry eye, typically have some weakness in the connective tissue that holds the tear-producing gland in place. Eventually, the improperly anchored gland slips from its location behind the third eyelid and becomes exposed to the outside air. The condition is not necessarily painful for the affected animal, but it appears unpleasant. It can also lead to complications if it is not properly treated. Cherry eye is common in young dogs of certain breeds, and it rarely occurs in cats.

Cherry Eye (Eyelid Protrusion)

How it Affects your pet

When the gland first pops out of place, the animal is not typically in pain. However, if left unprotected, the gland can be damaged by the environment and as a result of the pet scratching or pawing at it. Resultant damage can include irritation, bleeding and ulceration. This damage can lead to infection. Further, if damage to the gland compromises its function, the animal’s ability to produce tears will be diminished. Diminished tear production can result in keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), also known as dry eye, in later life. This is a painful chronic condition that is often difficult to manage.

Common symptoms

Symptoms of cherry eye on pets are fairly dramatic and often include some of the following: A red lump in the corner of one or both eyes, Redness around the affected eye or eyes, Eye irritation, Excessive tear production, Squinting, Pawing at the eye, Inadequate tear production and Swelling around the eyes.

Treatments

Veterinarians often use topical medications to prevent damage to the exposed gland of the third eyelid. Occasionally, the problem resolves with only use of these medications and careful management, but in most cases, surgery is necessary to cure the problem. The preferred treatment for cherry eye is surgical repositioning of the gland of the third eyelid. In the past, the gland was often removed. This procedure cures the cherry eye but compromises tear production. Currently favored procedures preserve the function of the gland, but they do allow for the possibility of recurrence. In most breeds, the success rate of repositioning surgery is 90 to 95 percent. However, in bulldogs and mastiffs, recurrence rates are higher. Recurrence rates are also higher in cases where postoperative care instructions are not carefully followed and those in which the prolapse went untreated for a long time before surgery.

Breeds Affected

While the condition can occur in any breed, there is a strong genetic predisposition for prolapse in certain breeds. Dog breeds prone to the problem include the following: Cocker spaniel, Bulldog, Beagle, Bloodhound, Lhasa apso, Shih Tzu, Cocker spaniel and Pekingese. The condition is also more common among Burmese and Persian cats than among cats of other breeds.

Cherry Eye (Eyelid Protrusion) Affects

  • When the gland first pops out of place, the animal is not typically in pain. However, if left unprotected, the gland can be damaged by the environment and as a result of the pet scratching or pawing at it. Resultant damage can include irritation, bleeding and ulceration. This damage can lead to infection. Further, if damage to the gland compromises its function, the animal’s ability to produce tears will be diminished. Diminished tear production can result in keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), also known as dry eye, in later life. This is a painful chronic condition that is often difficult to manage.

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