Treating Cherry Eye in Dogs

Cherry eye is the common name for a prolapsed third eyelid gland. It is common for puppies under one-year-old. The tissue that secretes tears is the nictitating membrane found in the corner of the eye.

If your dog has cherry eyes, the membrane protrudes to the outside of the eye. Most dogs with cherry eyes experience irritation and dry eye. It is essential to see a veterinarian for early treatment.

What Is the Cause of Cherry Eyes in Dogs?

The third eyelids are essential for tear production. If you do not treat the cherry eye problem, your dog will develop dry eyes. The condition occurs with the stretching or breaking of the small ligament responsible for holding the third eye gland. Most specialists remain unsure why this happens.

Signs and Symptoms of Cherry Eye

You may notice a swollen red mass on the corner of the eye as the first symptom. The following are some of the signs and symptoms that show your dog has a cherry eye and needs to see a veterinarian:

  • Third eyelid and a swollen tear gland.

  • A reddish bulge on the eye.

  • The appearance of an oval-shaped mass on the corner of the eye.

  • Irritation and pain whenever your dog rubs the bulge.

  • Squinting when in pain.

  • Dry eyes.

  • Swelling around the affected eye.

  • A discharge filled with pus if there is infection.

Diagnosis of Cherry Eye in Dog

Take your dog to the veterinarian once you see the signs and symptoms consistent with a cherry eye. Your veterinarian will begin by examining the eyes. They will diagnose based on how the cherry eye appears clinically, especially in certain breeds and younger dogs. They may also do various tests and examinations to establish that the general health of your dog is okay.

Tear production can reduce from having the third eyelid gland exposed. The veterinarian may elect to administer a Schirmer test to measure tear production. Doing so will help check whether your dog has a dry eye problem. 

They may also check for scratches on the cornea by doing a fluorescein test. If your dog has corneal scratches, it may be under a lot of pain. The cornea can also get perforation, ulceration, and infection if untreated.

Treating Cherry Eye in Dogs

Surgery is an effective treatment method for cherry eyes in dogs. Your veterinarian should be able to handle replacing the third eyelid gland. Before the procedure, they will talk to you about the treatment plan. 

There are cases where they may need to refer you to a specialist in veterinary ophthalmology. These professionals have the necessary experience required to treat diverse cherry eye types. They can also treat other ophthalmic problems your pet may have.

Your veterinarian may recommend removing the gland if it has prolapsed or if the replacement fails. This is usually a last resort option. It will significantly affect the eye’s production of tears.


It is essential to take your dog to the veterinarian for follow-up checkups after its surgery. In the meantime, it should have an Elizabethan collar for about 14 days post-surgery until it heals. The collar helps protect your pet from irritating or tampering with the site for a successful recovery. 

For more about treating cherry eye in dogs, visit Brekke Veterinary Clinic at our office in Castle Rock, Colorado. You can also call 303-474-4260 to book an appointment today.

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