Dogs have a unique anatomy of their eyes. They have up to 6 eyelids with each eye having 3. These are the upper eyelid, the lower lid and the third eyelid which we seldom see. Otherwise known as nictitating membranes, the dog’s third eyelids normally lie beneath the lower lids.
Both the upper and lower eyelids function very much like human’s. The third eyelids act like an extra layer of eye protection in dogs. It’s like a wipe which helps in keeping the eye clear of dust and debris. It also has a tear gland which produces moisture to the dog’s eye by around 35 percent.
The dog’s third eyelids also have glands that are found in the corner of the eye right next to his nose. Sometimes the gland slips out of place and appear like it’s bulging. This bulge, which is similar to a red or pinkish blob, is what’s known as cherry eye.
Although the exact causes of cherry eye are not well understood, there are certain things about it that we should be aware of.
1. Cherry eye is neither a true medical emergency nor a life-threatening condition. Dogs with cherry eye feel a number of discomfort. This include inflammation, irritation, eye redness (conjunctivitis) and others. To relieve the discomfort, dogs should be treated promptly at the veterinarian clinic. The move will also help in preventing permanent ocular damage.
2. It is possible that the cherry eye condition will correct by itself in a couple of weeks. However, waiting for this to happen does not seem like the best option. If the condition does not correct itself, the dog will have to bear the cherry eye just a whole lot longer. The longer time that the gland is out of place, the bigger it becomes due to swelling. Since it is bigger, it is harder to reposition it. Moreover, there’s a huge chance that the condition will occur again. If left untreated, it can later lead to a more serious problem.
3. Dogs that are younger, around 6 weeks to 2 years, are more likely to be seen with a cherry eye. While any breed can develop the condition, cherry eye is more commonly found in Neapolitan Mastiffs, Miniature Poodles, Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, Beagles, Shih Tzus, Shar-Peis, Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs, Bloodhounds, Newfoundlands and Boston Terriers.
4. Some breeds of cats are also prone to have cherry eye. These include Burmese and Persian cats which are more likely to develop cherry eye compared to other breeds.
5. Cherry eye can be treated by surgery. During the treatment, the doctor removes a small part of the gland. The remaining part is carefully tucked into the inside part of the third eyelid where the doctor tacks it into place. There is a 5 to 20 percent chance that the tacked gland slips out of place the second time around. Determining the length of time that this can happen depends on several factors. These include how long the gland was out prior to surgery, the condition of the cartilage in the dog’s third eyelid, the level of swelling of the gland and the type and timing of surgical procedure that was performed on the dog.