Cherry eye is a temporary health issue in dogs where a bulging tear gland in their third eyelid causes a large, bright-red bump to appear on the inside corner of the eye. While it causes little irritation, cherry eye can lead to dry eye and other issues with tear production if left untreated.
What is cherry eye in a dog?
Believe it or not, your pup actually has three eyelids…yep. If we’re getting technical here, this eyelid is called the nictitating membrane; but really the most important thing to note is that it basically just gives your pooch extra protection from dust, debris, water, wind, and any other things that may be harmful to their eyes.
Why is this info important? Well, this eyelid actually has its own tear gland (that’s right, each of your dog’s eyes have two!) These glands are crucial to the lubrication of your dog’s eye (this gland produces an entire third of your furry friend’s tears). Sometimes, the glands’ connective tissue can become loose, causing them to protrude or prolapse.
Prolapse is a fancy medical term you’ll see all over the internet, but basically, it’s just when a body part (usually an organ) slips out of its proper place. The sliding out of place of this tear gland—and into your pooch’s third eyelid—is what creates the red bulb commonly referred to as cherry eye.
What causes cherry eye in dogs?
While vets don’t fully know why this happens, they think a big part of it comes down to a dog’s genetic breed background. Certain breeds (particularly those in the Spaniel, Terrier, and Hound classes) are more likely to get Cherry eye; some examples include Boston Terriers, Pugs, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Bull Dogs, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, and Shar Peis.
Cherry eye is also commonly found in young dogs—specifically those under age two. While these are some factors that may reflect how likely it is for your own furry friend to come down with a cherry eye, it’s important to remember that the disorder can be found in any breed and at any age. Always consult your vet when you see something unusual.
How to treat cherry eye in dogs
It’s unlikely that your best pal’s cherry eye will correct itself without any attention at all. Most cases will require surgery. You can, however, start with possible remedies. Eye drops, careful massaging, and a warm, wet compress on the site can help naturally return the gland to place. And with a visit to the vet, you can get some topical meds (we’re talking creams, gels, and anything skin-applied), antibiotics, and steroids which can also help with dryness and prevent more infection.
Is cherry eye covered by pet health insurance?
That depends. If your dog was diagnosed with, or showed signs of, cherry eye before you signed up for pet health insurance (and before your waiting periods ended), then this would be considered a pre-existing condition. If your pup suffered cherry eye in his left eye prior to getting insurance—and then, after signing up, got it in his right eye—neither would be covered, since this would be considered a bilateral condition.
How to prevent cherry eye in dogs
Because its cause is still greatly unknown, there’s little you can do to prevent your pup from getting cherry eye. The best thing you can do as a pet owner here is check to see if your pooch belongs to one of the breeds prone to this condition. If they do, watch out for redness on their inside eye and visit the vet if you ever notice a bump forming.