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.