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Dog Health:
Cherry Eye (Prolapsed Tear Gland)

 

Cherry eye, otherwise known as prolapsed tear gland, occurs when the tear gland situated in the eyelid towards the lower corner of the eyeball close to the nose, known as the third eyelid, actually "pops out" of its attachment beneath the eyelid. 

This appears as a red swelling in the corner of the eyeball of an affected dog, about the size of a cherry, hence the name cherry eye.  Cocker Spaniels, Bull Dogs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, Poodles, along with other breeds of dogs are mostly prone to this condition. 

The tear gland normally attaches to the undersurface of the eyeball by a ligament which holds this gland in place, and out of sight.  In affected breeds, this ligament is either weak or nonexistent, which then results in the gland "popping out" and appearing in the corner of the eyeball.

Aside from appearance, the prolapsed tear gland can actually rub against the surface of the eye known as the cornea, and cause irritation, and sometimes ulceration of the cornea.  Excessive drainage from the affected eye is sometimes seen.  Affected eyes in which the gland is not rubbing the cornea, do not require medical or surgical attention.  The owner in such cases, may request correction of the condition solely based upon appearance.

Treatment is considered when irritation of the cornea is experienced.  Topically applied ointments and eye drops may sufficiently control the irritation.  If irritation occurs, and topical medication is required on a continual basis, surgery then should be considered.

Most cases of cherry eye respond quite well to surgical correction.  The gland is sutured , stitched or "tacked" back into place, where the stitch then acts as the ligament to reattach the gland into position.  Years ago, and some veterinarians still are removing this gland as a form of treatment.  As this gland is responsible for the tear production in the eyeball, when removed, often times the tear production diminishes, and you are left with a "dry eye" condition.  Thus, this procedure should never be considered as an option. 

Allowing the gland to remain popped out, with or without the need for medication would be preferred over complete removal of this tear gland.  If the gland is removed and the patient develops dry eye, long term medication is required then to keep the eyeball moist.