Cherry eye in dogs is a common condition that can cause dryness and discomfort in and around your pooch’s eyes, and even impair their vision.
While certain breeds—like Bulldogs and Boston Terriers, who have brachycephalic faces—are more prone to cherry eye than others, this is a condition that can affect any dog.
Surgery is often the best treatment option for cherry eye in dogs, but as of 2023 cherry eye surgery costs could range from roughly $500 to $2,500 for one or both eyes, depending on the specific procedure and other factors.
Hopefully your fur fam will never develop cherry eye, but it’s important to be familiar with the signs and treatment options so you can be mentally (and financially) prepared, just in case.
Here’s what we’ll discuss:
- What is cherry eye in dogs?
- What are the symptoms of cherry eye?
- What are the main causes of cherry eye?
- How much does cherry eye surgery for dogs cost?
- What does the cost of cherry eye surgery include?
- Does pet insurance cover the cost of cherry eye surgery?
- How can I help my pooch fully recover after cherry eye surgery?
- What dog breeds are the most prone to cherry eye?
- Are there alternative treatments for cherry eye in dogs?
What is cherry eye in dogs?
Cherry eye is a temporary health issue in dogs where a bulging tear gland in their third eyelid (aka the nictitating membrane) causes a large, bright-red bump to appear on the inside corner of the dog’s eye. Believe it or not, your pup actually has three eyelids…yep.
Normally, the third eyelid gland is responsible for a significant portion of tear production. While it causes little irritation, if left untreated, cherry eye can lead to problems like keratoconjunctivitis sicca—a fancy word for dry eye—and eye infections.
What are the symptoms of cherry eye?
The most noticeable symptom of cherry eye is swollen red mass in the corner of the eye—either in one or both eyes. Swelling on its own is reason enough to get your dog to the vet for treatment, but dog owners should keep an eye out for additional symptoms like:
- Pawing at the eye
- Watery discharge
- Dry eye
- Redness and irritation in the eye
- Impaired vision
What are the main causes of cherry eye?
While vets don’t fully know why cherry eye happens, there are a few different reasons that could lead to this condition.
Weak tissue or ligaments
The most common cause of cherry eye in dogs is the weakening or stretching of the fibrous tissue that holds the gland of the third eyelid in place. When this occurs, the gland can prolapse or slip out of its normal position.
There is also a genetic component involved in the development of cherry eye. Certain breeds seem to be more prone to developing this condition (which we’ll get into later), indicating that there could be an inherited aspect to the weakness of the ligament that holds the gland in place.
Inflammation or injury
In some cases, inflammation due to infection or physical trauma to the eye area can lead to cherry eye. The inflammation or injury can cause the gland to swell and push out of its normal position, leading to a prolapse.
How much does cherry eye surgery for dogs cost?
Surgery for cherry eye costs between $500 and $2,500. Unfortunately, cherry eye probably won’t clear up on its own, and will likely require surgical intervention.
There are three main procedures to treat cherry eye, including:
- Pocket technique: roughly $300 to $1,200 per eye, this involves creating a “pocket” to tuck the prolapsed gland back into its normal position, helping preserve tear production
- Gland removal: about $500 to $1,500 per eye, this involves the removal of the third eyelid gland, typically a last resort due to the risk of dry eye
- Gland repositioning: around $700 to $1,800 per eye, this involves suturing the prolapsed gland back into place
The costs of cherry eye surgery procedure can vary depending on a number of factors—including the size of your pooch, where the surgery is performed, and the type of procedure.
Keep in mind: Many general practice vets have the necessary experience and skills to perform cherry eye surgeries, but the procedure could also be done by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist.
What does the cost of cherry eye surgery include?
There’s a lot more to the cost of dog surgery than the procedure itself. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main expenses you can expect.
|Expense||Average Cost Range|
|Vet visit||$50 to $200|
|Pre-surgery blood work||$50 to $100|
|Anesthetic||$50 to $150|
|Surgical procedure||$300 to $1,900|
|Medications (eye drops, pain relief)||$50 to $100|
|E-collar (Elizabethan collar)||$20 to $50|
What does the cost not include?
The price of cherry eye surgery for dogs typically doesn’t include post-surgery check ups—which can run around $50 to $100 per visit.
These checkups are typically done one to two weeks after surgery, and then again one to two months after the surgery. Your vet or veterinary ophthalmologist will check the incision site to make sure it is healing properly, and that there are no signs of infection or ulcers.
The surgery cost likely also won’t include potential treatment for complications—like ulcers on the cornea—which can range from about $50 to $500.
Does pet insurance cover the cost of cherry eye surgery?
Yes, a basic Lemonade pet insurance policy will often cover the costs of your dog’s cherry eye surgery, minus your deductible and co-insurance.
However, it’s crucial to insure your dog before they show any signs of eye problems, as pre-existing conditions are typically not covered (like if your pup has been treated for cherry eye in the past), or if your dog starts showing signs of cherry eye during your waiting period—which is two days for accidents, and 14 days for illnesses.
Did you know you can sign your pup up for a Lemonade policy from the time they’re two months old?
While you’re at it, consider purchasing Lemonade’s vet visit add-on, which would help to cover the cost of check ups following the surgery.
How can I help my pooch fully recover after cherry eye surgery?
Your pup will need some TLC following their cherry eye surgery to help manage any discomfort, prevent complications, and promote healing. The post-op schedule can vary, but will likely require that you follow a specific regime.
Immediately after surgery
Dogs will generally need to wear an e-collar to prevent them from pawing at or rubbing their eyes. You may need to give your dog eye drops to reduce inflammation and prevent infection.
First week post-surgery
Continue administering medications as prescribed by the vet, which could include anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, along with a lubricant to help protect the eye.
Monitor the surgical site daily for signs of infection or other complications, such as:
- Increased redness
- Changes in behavior, that may indicate pain or discomfort
You’ll probably need to take your pooch for a follow-up visit with the vet within the first week to check on the healing process.
Two weeks post-surgery
By this time, the sutures (if any were used) are typically ready to be removed, although some types of sutures may dissolve on their own.
Another follow-up visit may be scheduled at this point to ensure the gland is staying in place and the eye is healing properly.
One month post-surgery and beyond
Your dog’s eye should be healed for the most part, and they can return to their regular activities. Ongoing monitoring is still essential, potentially including additional vet checkups, as cherry eye can sometimes reoccur.
Remember that every dog’s recovery process can be different, and the above timeline is a general guide. Always follow the specific instructions given by your veterinarian or the veterinary ophthalmologist performing the surgery.
What dog breeds are the most prone to cherry eye?
Cherry eye has a strong genetic predisposition, meaning certain breeds are more likely to develop this condition due to their inherited traits.
These predisposed breeds typically have prominent eyes and facial skin folds.
The breeds most commonly associated with cherry eye fall into two main categories— brachycephalic breeds and sporting breeds.
- English Bulldog
- French Bulldog
- American Bulldog
- Boston Terriers
- Shih Tzus
- Lhasa Apsos
- Cocker Spaniels
- Neapolitan Mastiffs
Don’t forget that while these breeds are more prone to developing cherry eye, it can occur in any dog breed. Regular check-ups with a vet can help ensure early detection and treatment of this condition.
Are there alternative treatments for cherry eye in dogs?
Surgery is typically the recommended treatment for cherry eye, but some dog owners and vets might explore alternative treatments, including:
- Manual repositioning: Involves a vet gently pushing the gland back into place while the dog is sedated.
- Topical medications: Anti-inflammatory eye drops or ointments are used to reduce swelling and potentially allow the gland to return to its normal position.
- Steroid injections: Corticosteroid injections can be used to decrease inflammation and swelling with the aim of letting the gland revert to its usual location.
- Homeopathic remedies: Certain herbal treatments, like eyebright or calendula, are sometimes used in an attempt to treat cherry eye, although their effectiveness is not widely supported by scientific research.
- Conservative management: In mild cases, or when other health concerns prevent surgery, the condition might be monitored without active treatment, using lubricating eye drops to prevent dry eye.
These alternative treatments typically have lower success rates compared to surgery, and they may not prevent potential complications such as dry eye or recurring prolapse.
Looking towards your pup’s future…
If your dog is diagnosed with cherry eye, you’ll have several treatment options available. Your vet can help you to explore the options that are best for your pet’s eye, and that are within your budget.
A pet health insurance policy can allow you to explore treatment options for your dog without worrying so much about which treatments you can afford, so you can give your dog the best chance at a recovery from cherry eye.
A few quick words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage and discounts may not be available in all states.