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Cherry Eye in Dogs

Cherry eye in dogs is a condition that involves the gland of a third eyelid which is known as the nictitating membrane.  The nictitating membrane, which is located in the lower eyelid, acts as an additional shield for the dogs’ eyes.

Cherry Eye in Dogs

Cherry eye occurs when the connective tissue that holds the gland become loose or damaged.  The damage affects the nictitating membrane’s tear gland which then slips forward and produces a visible red mass in the inner corner of a dog’s eye which is why it is called Cherry eye.

Cherry eye is more common in puppies than adult dogs and is usually caused by a hereditary weakness in the gland’s connective tissue.

If left untreated, cherry eye can lead to a significant decrease in tear production as well as many other eye problems.

Symptoms of Cherry Eye

rottweiler puppy with cherry eyeSome of the common symptoms of Cherry eye are the following:

  • Reddish, protruding mass of tissue in the eye
  • Swelling and Irritation
  • Excessive tear production
  • Squinting
  • Trouble with vision
  • Pawing and rubbing the eyes
  • Dry eyes

What Causes Cherry Eye in Dogs?


The most common cause of cherry eye is genetics.

Cherry eye is known as a congenital disorder which can be passed on throughout generations.

Congenital conditions are inherited conditions that are present at or even before birth which is why it cherry eye is common in puppies.

Damage to the connective tissues

If your puppy or dog has had any type of eye disorder or an accident that weakens the connective tissue to the nictitating membrane, then cherry eye can also occur.

Breeds More Prone to Have Cherry Eye

The following breeds are more pre-disposed to cherry eye:

  • Beagles
  • Boxers
  • Bulldogs
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Lhasa Apsos
  • Mastiffs
  • Newfoundlands
  • Poodles
  • Saint Bernards
  • Shih Tzusa
  • West Highland Terriers

While breeds with shorter muzzles are at a higher risk to develop a cherry eye, the condition can occur in any dog and at any age of his life.

Treatment of Cherry Eye

It is important to treat cherry eye as soon as possible to minimize permanent damage to the eye or third eyelid gland.

Your vet will examine your pet’s eyes and determine the best course of treatment depending on the severity of the condition.

Medication for Cherry Eye

In some cases, cherry eye will just correct itself on its own, but this is rarely the case.

When the cherry eye is not as severe and is caught in the early stages, a closed-eye massage with prescribed antibiotics and steroids can help clear up the condition.

Topical medication, recommended by your vet, can help with the inflammation that occurs with cherry eye and to help with secondary infections that might occur.


There are two different surgeries that are utilized to correct cherry eye.

Surgical replacement of the third eyelid

The most common and safest surgery is for the vet or ophthalmologist to suture the tissue so that it is back in place.   The goal is to have the eyelid back encased in the conjunctiva of the eye where it should be positioned.

Surgical repositioning of the eyelid

Another surgery which is harder for a vet to perform is to reposition the eyelid surgically to the eye.  The goal is to create a new pocket or envelope to hold the eyelid in place permanently.

The risk here is that the suture might cause a problem for the eye in the future.

Surgical removal of the tear gland

The final option, that is usually the last resort, is to completely remove the cherry-eye tear gland.  This is the last option because then the gland is incapable of ever producing tears.

With this surgery, dogs will need lifelong treatment of the eye with artificial tears since dry eyes and other secondary issues can occur without the production of tears or lubrication of the dog’s eyes.

Can Pet Insurance Help with Cherry Eye?

Pet insurance can help cover the costs of surgery and medication necessary to treat the cherry eye.

However, your dog must not yet have cherry eye or the condition will be considered pre-existing and won’t be covered.

If you have a breed that is pre-disposed to this condition, it’s best to insure your dog while he is still a puppy so this or any other health issue that your dog might develop is covered.

The costs of treating cherry eye can range anywhere from $500 to $1,500 per eye.  And with pet insurance, up to 90% of these costs can be covered.

Plans, like Healthy Paws, can help not only with the cost of surgery but the on-going medication, follow-up visits and treatment that is necessary to keep the cherry eye from re-occurring.

Living and Management with Cherry Eye In Dogs

If you can catch the disease in the early stages, the prognosis is very good.

The most important thing you can do is keep up with your vet visits and as always if you see anything unusual in your dog’s eyes, take your pup to the vet immediately.

Dogs with cherry eye tend to get the condition in both eyes which is why it’s imperative to look out for the signs.

If you are looking for a pet insurance provider that will cover cherry eye or any other dog health issues, our top 10 pet insurance companies is a great place to start!

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