A cherry eye is a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid.
In some cases the cherry eye can be associated with eversion of the third eyelid cartilage.
The cause of the condition is unknown but is common in certain breeds, and may follow trauma to the eye. It seems to be common in younger dogs.
Cherry eye commonly presents in one eye initially, but the second gland may also prolapse - sometimes many months or even years later.
Breeds predisposed include Basset Hounds, Shar Peis, Maltese, Beagles, Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels and Rottweilers. The inheritance of the condition is unknown.
Possible problems caused by the prolapsed gland can include enlargement of the gland leading to conjunctivitis and even ulceration to the eye.
Medical therapy such as drops & ointments are rarely effective. Surgery is indicated to permanently replace the gland.
Removing the gland is not recommended as the gland produces 30-60% of the tears that protect the eyeball, and this can lead to dry eye.
The gland is stitched back into place underneath the eye. This requires a general anaesthetic and half a day in hospital. After surgery the third eyelid may sit across the eye for 3 to 7 days.
Download instructions of how to replace a cherry eye - images included
We find that in most cases there is very little swelling or postoperative discomfort after the surgery. In some breeds, especially the Basset Hound, the third eyelid may be too large, and it may be necessary to remodel the third eyelid.
In some cases this may not become apparent until after the swelling related to the cherry eye and the surgery resolves. The most common problem we have is eversion of the third eyelid cartilage.
In a small number of cases the suture that is used may break or pull through. More surgery will then be required. This happens in less than 2% of cases.