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Dog with cherry eye

The essentials

  • Cherry eye is a bulging of a dog’s third eyelid — This membrane helps protect the canine eyeball, but can prolapse when damaged.
  • Certain breeds are more prone to cherry eye — Brachycephalic breeds like French bulldogs and pugs are thought to have weaker third eyelids.
  • Cherry eye is common and treatable — Surgery will likely be needed to repair the inner gland attached to the third eyelid.

We’ve all melted when a dog makes “puppy-dog eyes” at us — earning them plenty of treats, attention, and forgiveness for poor behavior. So naturally it stands out when a dog’s typically cute eye suddenly has a red mass protruding out the side of it.

We’ll go over these red bumps and whether pet parents should be concerned or not.

What is cherry eye in dogs?

It may surprise you to learn that dogs have three eyelids instead of two. This third eyelid serves the purpose of lubricating the eyeball with tears, adding an additional protective layer.

Cherry eye is a red mass that may appear when the third eyelid becomes prolapsed (i.e. falling or bulging out of place), which can range in size from a tiny pimple-sized bump to a large bulbous-shaped protrusion that covers a significant portion of the eyeball. It will typically occur in the lower inner corner of the eye closest to the nose. While it’s certainly alarming, cherry eye is actually quite common in dogs.

Beagle with cherry eye

👉 Cherry eye shouldn’t be confused with swollen third eyelids, which can occur as a side effect of canine conjunctivitis.

What causes cherry eye in dogs?

You’re probably wondering what brought on this sudden mass in your furry friend’s eye. Though causes are relatively unknown in the veterinary community, it’s believed that the membrane connecting the third eyelid to an inner gland is weak in certain breeds and can be easily damaged.

Dogs considered the most susceptible to cherry eye are French bulldogs, cocker spaniels, Boston terriers, and pugs, among others.

How does cherry eye affect dogs?

Though common, canine cherry eye should not be ignored. This condition is irritating to dogs, causing them to paw at it and lead to further inflammation. Dogs rubbing their eyes may also damage their corneas and experience vision loss.

Cherry eye also prevents the third eyelid from being able to do its job lubricating the eye. The third eyelid provides 30% of a dog’s eye moisture, so without it functioning properly they can experience dry eyes – a condition that requires lifelong treatment.

How do you treat cherry eye in dogs?

Cherry eye is considered highly treatable for dogs, though it’s not without its complications. In some cases, cherry eye can correct itself on its own or with anti-inflammatories and other medication, but more often than not, surgery is required. Even then, up to 10% of cases require repeat surgery for dogs that get cherry eye all over again.

“Most commonly cherry eye is treated with surgery to replace the gland back into its proper place,” says veterinarian Dr.  Jennifer Schott. “Eye drops will also likely be needed to treat for inflammation and infection.” Recovery will require an E-collar so your dog can’t rub at their eye as it heals.

It’s reasonable to be anxious when your dog develops a cherry eye, but so long as you seek prompt veterinary care, your pup will likely be okay. Keep in mind that the condition is common, and all you can do is deal with it as it comes.

Frequently asked questions

What causes cherry eye in dogs?

Though causes aren’t exactly known, cherry eye is considered common in breeds that have a weak membrane connecting their third eyelid to their inner gland. This includes pugs, cocker spaniels, and Boston terriers, among others.

Can chronic cherry eye in dogs be cured?

Cherry eye will require anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling followed by surgery to repair the inner eye gland. No surgery has a 100% guarantee success rate and in the case of cherry eye, 10% of cases come back after surgery.

Can cherry eye in dogs correct itself?

It is possible for canine cherry eye to go away on its own, but more often that not surgery or medication is required.

How much does it cost to fix cherry eye in a dog?

The average cost of canine eye surgery can be between $300 and $2,000. Pet insurance can help offset this cost if you enroll before the condition presents.

Is cherry eye in dogs an emergency?

Cherry eye in dogs is not considered an emergency, but you should consult your vet before your dog doesn’t cause further damage by pawing at it.