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What Is Cherry Eye In Bulldogs?

A Red Lump in the Eye Could Be Cherry Eye

By Meredith Alling. June 10, 2014 | See Comments

Bulldog

Dogs have a third gland (eyelid) located in the lower corner of the lower eyelid, that can sometimes pop, become irritated and red. Hence the name cherry eye. Cherry eye doesn’t seem to bother most dogs at first, however, it is vital that it is treated as soon as possible. Learn more about the causes, symptoms and treatment options available for cherry eye here.

Dogs can develop eye redness for a number of reasons, including allergies, an eye infection, or conjunctivitis. However, an eye that has a bulging red mass is usually something different -- a condition known as cherry eye, or prolapse nictitans gland. Some cat breeds and a number of dog breeds are predisposed to this condition, and among them, Bulldogs are often affected. Read on to learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for cherry eye in Bulldogs.

Causes of Cherry Eye in Bulldogs

Have you ever noticed that your Bulldog’s eyes sometimes appear to be rolling back when they sleep? This is because dogs have a third eyelid -- also known as the nictitating membrane -- that is located in the corner of the lower eyelid. When the upper and lower eyelids open during sleep and the third eyelid closes, this creates the appearance of a “rolling” or all white eye.

The third eyelid contains a tear gland, and in healthy dogs, the gland shouldn’t be visible. In some dogs, however, the gland will bulge or pop out. When this happens, it is exposed to the air and loses moisture, which can cause irritation and a red, thickened appearance. This is what is referred to as cherry eye.

The cause of cherry eye is not completely known, but it is thought to be genetic and perhaps the result of weakened eyelid tissue. While the condition shows up often in Bulldogs, it is also common in Beagles, Boston Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Bloodhounds, Bull Terriers, Saint Bernards, and Chinese Shar-Peis.

Symptoms of Cherry Eye in Bulldogs

Cherry eye can be seen as a bulging red lump protruding from the lower inner corner of your dog’s eye (or eyes). While the prolapsed gland may appear to look irritated, you may notice that your dog doesn’t seem to be bothered. This is because cherry eye is not painful. However, it can cause issues down the road if left untreated. The bulging gland prevents lubrication of the eye, which can lead to problems like an eye infection or dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS).

Treatment for Cherry Eye in Bulldogs

Surgery is almost always necessary to correct cherry eye, and there are typically two surgical options: remove the affected gland, or put it back in its natural position under the lower eyelid.

The problem with removing the gland is that it is incredibly important for tear production, and without it, dry eye can easily develop. Dry eye is a permanent condition that can lead to blindness and usually requires lifelong medication.  

Saving the gland also has its risks -- for example, the cherry eye could come back, or the suturing used for the procedure could come loose and cause irritation. If this happens, it can sometimes be treated with medication, or a second surgery to remove the loosened suture may be necessary.

Most veterinarians now agree that the second option -- preserving the gland -- is the right way to go, as it is so essential for tear production, especially as the dog ages and tear production decreases.

If the condition is caught early enough, some veterinarians may also suggest a holistic approach of eye drops and supplements to try to control the inflammation so that the gland’s natural position might be reestablished.

If your Bulldog is showing signs of cherry eye, contact your veterinarian immediately. While the condition itself does not cause your dog pain, it can lead to serious problems if left untreated. Your veterinarian will decide which treatment option is best for your dog.

More on Eye Health

Treatments For Dog And Cat Cherry Eye
What Are Symptoms Of Eye Infections In Pets?
Finding The Cause Of Chronic Dry Eye In Your Dog

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Cherry Eye at a glance

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  • 1Cherry eye refers to a bulging third eyelid gland
  • 2The cause of cherry eye is not known, but it is thought to be genetic
  • 3Cherry eye is seen as a red, thick, bulging lump in the lower inner corner of your dog’s eye
  • 4Treatment is usually surgical