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Treatments for Cat and Dog Cherry Eye

Don't Let Cherry Eye Cause Serious Problems for Your Pet

By Maureen Ryan. February 03, 2014 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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A Dog Getting Drops Put In His Eye

Left untreated, cat or dog cherry eye can cause more serious problems for your pet. Find out what treatment options are available.

It is easy to spot a cat or dog with cherry eye. The tell tale red bump at the corner of the eye says it all. At the first sign of that irritated bulge, you should contact your veterinarian to start treatment, because in addition to being unsightly and painful for your cat or dog, cherry eye can cause serious complications that may impact your pet’s overall well-being.

What Is Cherry Eye?

Dogs and cats, like many animals, have a third eyelid. This membrane is usually translucent. In fact, pet owners may never notice it, but it plays an important role in keeping your pets’ eyes moist and healthy.  This eyelid is joined to the bottom of the eye, but in certain dogs and cats the fibers that attach the eyelid can stretch, leading the whole membrane to pop out. The eyelid then protrudes from the corner of your pet’s eye as an irritated red bulge.

The prolapsed eyelid is uncomfortable for dogs and cats. It also puts them at risk for serious eye infections and, especially if your pet scratches or rubs at the bump, it can lead to tears or ulcerations of the eye.

Treatment Options for Cherry Eye

The most common and most effective treatment for cherry eye in dogs and cats is to stitch the third eyelid back into place underneath the eye. Your pet will need to be admitted to a veterinary hospital and will be given general anesthesia for the procedure.

There may be a little swelling or discomfort after the surgery, but in most cases, the prolapsed eyelid will heal and function normally again with a few weeks. There are cases, however, in which the prolapsed third eyelid becomes severely damaged or misshapen. In these instances, additional surgery may be needed to have the eyelid remodeled.

Removal of the Third Eyelid

At one time, cherry eye in dogs and cats was treated by surgically removing the third eyelid altogether. This is still sometimes medically necessary, but vets prefer to try and save the eyelid. While humans get along fine with just two lids, dogs, cats, and other animals rely on the gland in the third eye lid to maintain good vision and eye health. This gland is where a significant portion of tears are made and secreted, so it supplies essential nutrients and oxygen to the eye. Without this eyelid, your dog or cat will develop keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), also known as dry eye. KCS can cause discharge, further irritation, and discomfort. If it’s not managed with medication, drops, and proper care, KCS will lead to permanent vision loss.

Non-Surgical Options

Most veterinarians may say that medicinal treatments such as drops and ointments are not effective in helping to cure cherry eye in dogs and cats. However, if you wish to try a less invasive treatment, you might consult a holistic veterinarian. If homeopathic eye drops and nutraceuticals are used within the first few days of the red bump appearing, your vet may be able to control the inflammation and the ligaments that attach the third eyelid to the eye may be able to heal and return to normal. If the condition isn’t treated right away or if holistic approaches fail, though, it will be necessary to surgically repair the eyelid.

More on Eye Care

Cat and Dog Eye Care Buying Guide
Dealing With Your Dog's  Dry Eye
Nuclear Sclerosis in Cats

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Cherry Eye Treatment at a glance

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  • 1Consult your vet as soon as you notice the first signs of cherry eye.
  • 2Leaving cherry eye untreated can result in infections or tear to the cornea.
  • 3In almost all cases, cat and dog with cherry eye will need surgery to correct the problem.