July 26, 2010
Dr Janet Tobiassen Crosby fills us in on the treatment options for Cherry Eye.
Cherry eye, also known as a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid (nictitating membrane), is a common eye condition of young (<2 year old) dogs. A prolapse occurs when the small tear-producing gland, located in this third lower lid, everts outward. The result is a bright red lump, probably where this condition got the name "cherry eye." Cherry eye may occur in one eye or both eyes. Some breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Shar Peis, Bulldogs, Beagles and Boston Terriers, have a higher incidence of this condition.
It is thought that there is a weakness in the supporting structures of the eyelid, causing the gland to prolapse. The majority of dogs with cherry eye don't seem to notice that there is a problem. Cherry eye may go away on its own, but usually once you see it, it is there to stay, unless surgically corrected. There aren't any medications to 'fix' cherry eye.
Treatment Options for Cherry Eye
In the past, the prolapsed gland was simply removed, often at the time the animal was spayed or neutered. This is not a good solution. Tear production slows as animals age. This small gland is responsible for about 30% or more of the eye's tear production. If the other gland fails or has reduced tear production, this leads to a condition called keratoconjunctiva sicca (KCS), or dry eye. This means mucous and pus-filled painful eyes, more damaged over time.
There are a couple of different surgical techniques to replace the gland. One method tucks the gland in the lid with a suture to hold it in place. The second method is more involved, with the surgeon cutting a flap in the lid, replacing the gland, and closing with several sutures to hold the gland in place. Either way, the goal is to replace the gland permanently and preserve the tear production of that gland.
With successful resolution of this problem, one should be aware of the need to monitor for future KCS, but most dogs go on to lead long healthy lives.
Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM trained at Oregon State University, Washington State University, and the Animal Medical Center in New York City, Janet graduated with a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University in 1990. She writes for the About.com Veterinary Medicine site, the VetMed Connect blog and her "for fun" blog, AboutVetMed.com.
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