What Is Cherry Eye In Bulldogs? A Red Lump in the Eye Could Be Cherry Eye


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 doesnโ€™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 the 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 the cherry eye is not always 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 the 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. A 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 re-established.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat cherry eye in bulldogs?

Cherry eye is a condition that affects the third eyelid, or nictitating membrane, in dogs, and it is common in Bulldogs. Treatment for cherry eye typically involves surgical correction of the prolapsed gland. The most common surgical method is called a tarsal conjunctival pedicle graft, which involves repositioning the gland back into its normal position and attaching it to the surrounding tissue. This procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia. Another surgical approach is the excision of the affected gland and replacement of it with a salivary gland transplant. Recovery time and post-operative care will vary based on the surgical approach and the individual dog, but generally, it's recommended to use an Elizabethan collar to prevent the dog from scratching the eye and to administer any medication prescribed by the veterinarian. The surgical procedure is usually successful, but the condition can recur after some time. Therefore, it's important to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and management.

Can bulldogs live with a cherry eye?

Bulldogs can live with a cherry eye, but it's important to note that cherry eye can cause discomfort and pain. In some cases, it can also lead to vision loss if left untreated. The prolapsed gland can also become infected, or it can be irritated by dust, dirt, or other irritants, which can cause further complications. If the cherry eye is mild and not causing any discomfort, the vet may choose to monitor it instead of treating it surgically. However, if the eye is painful or if there is a risk of infection, surgery will typically be recommended. Even if the condition is treated surgically, there is a chance that it might reoccur at some point, and the dog may require further treatment.

Does cherry eye hurt bulldogs?

Cherry eyes can cause discomfort and pain for bulldogs, as well as other breeds affected by this condition. The prolapsed gland can become irritated by dust, dirt, or other irritants, which can cause redness, swelling, and pain. Additionally, the prolapsed gland can become infected, which can cause further pain, inflammation, and other symptoms, such as discharge or a change in the color of the eye.

Can cherry eye go away by itself?

Cherry eye is caused by the prolapse of the tear gland from its normal position in the eyelid, and it is a structural issue that typically does not resolve on its own. The prolapsed gland will not return to its normal position without surgical intervention, and it will continue to be visible as a red, swollen mass in the eye. In some cases, the condition may not be causing any discomfort or pain, and the vet may choose to monitor it instead of treating it surgically. However, if the eye is painful or if there is a risk of infection, surgery will typically be recommended to reposition the gland back into its normal position.

What triggers cherry eye in dogs?

The exact cause of cherry eye in dogs is not well understood, but it is believed to be related to a congenital weakness in the connective tissue that holds the tear gland in place. This weakness can cause the gland to prolapse or become displaced from its normal position in the eyelid, which leads to the formation of the characteristic red, swollen mass. Certain breeds, such as Bulldogs, Shar Pei, Lhasa Apso, Cocker Spaniel, and Saint Bernards, are more prone to develop cherry eye due to the structural characteristics of their eyes and face, which can make them more susceptible to the condition. Some studies suggest that certain environmental factors, such as exposure to UV radiation, dry air, or certain irritants, may increase the risk of cherry eye in dogs.

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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