Understanding Cherry Eye in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Cherry eye is a common eye condition affecting dogs, particularly certain breeds. It is characterized by the protrusion or prolapse of the gland in the corner of the eye, known as the third eyelid or nictitating membrane. In this article, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for cherry eye in dogs.

Causes of Cherry Eye 

The exact cause of cherry eye is not fully understood, but it is believed to be multifactorial. Some of the factors that may contribute to its development include:

  1. Genetics: Certain dog breeds, such as Bulldogs, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, and Lhasa Apsos, are more prone to cherry eye. It is believed to have a hereditary component, making some dogs more susceptible than others.
  2. Weak Connective Tissues: Weakened or lax connective tissues around the gland can lead to its prolapse, allowing it to become visible and swollen.
  3. Inflammation: Eye infections or inflammation can contribute to the development of cherry eye. Inflammation weakens the tissues supporting the gland, making it more likely to prolapse.

Symptoms of Cherry Eye

The most apparent symptom of cherry eye is the protrusion of a red, swollen mass in the inner corner of the affected eye. This prolapsed gland resembles a cherry, giving the condition its name. Other symptoms may include:

  1. Irritation and Discomfort: Dogs with cherry eye may exhibit signs of eye irritation, such as pawing at the eye, excessive blinking, or rubbing their face against surfaces.
  2. Excessive Tearing: The affected eye may produce more tears than usual, leading to tear stains on the fur around the eye.
  3. Conjunctivitis: The exposed gland is prone to irritation and may become inflamed, leading to conjunctivitis or pink eye.

Treatment Options for Cherry Eye

If you suspect your dog has cherry eye, it is crucial to seek veterinary care for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Some of the treatment options for cherry eye include:

  1. Medication: In mild cases, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and inflammation. However, medication alone is generally not a long-term solution and may not prevent future prolapses.
  2. Surgical Intervention: Surgery is the most common and effective treatment for cherry eye. The specific surgical technique may vary depending on the individual dog and the veterinarian’s expertise. The primary goal of surgery is to reposition the prolapsed gland and secure it in its normal position.

Preventing Complications and Recurrence

It is important to address cherry eye promptly to prevent complications and reduce the risk of recurrence. Leaving cherry eye untreated can lead to dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca), corneal ulcers, or chronic conjunctivitis.

During surgery, your veterinarian may also address any underlying anatomical abnormalities or weaknesses that contributed to the initial prolapse, reducing the likelihood of recurrence.


Cherry eye is a common eye condition in dogs, characterized by the protrusion of the gland in the corner of the eye. While the exact cause of cherry eye is not fully understood, it is believed to have genetic and anatomical components. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, which may involve surgery, are crucial to prevent complications and ensure the long-term eye health of your beloved canine companion. If you suspect your dog has cherry eye, consult your veterinarian for a thorough examination and guidance on the best course of action.

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