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Does your dog have protruding piece of pink/red tissue in the corner of his or her eye? Does this piece of tissue change in size? Your dog may have a “cherry eye!” Many mammals, including dogs, have an extra or third eyelid located inside the lower eyelid. This piece of tissue is also referred to as the nictitating membrane. The third eyelid serves as an additional protective layer for the eye. When this gland prolapses, or pops out, the condition is known as cherry eye.
Prolapse of the third eyelid gland appears as a red swollen mass on the lower eyelid near the nose. The cherry eye may be large and cover a significant portion of the cornea, or it may be small and appear only periodically. Any sign of a cherry eye should be brought to your family veterinarian’s attention immediately.
The gland of the third eyelid is normally anchored to the lower rim of the eye by a fibrous attachment. In certain breeds, it is believed that this attachment is weak, which allows the gland to protrude outward easily. The breeds most commonly affected include Cocker spaniels, Boston terriers, beagles, bloodhounds, lhasa apsos, shih tzus and other brachycephalic breeds (dogs with squished faces). Some cat breeds can also have this condition, such as Burmese and Persian cats.
The treatment involves surgical replacement of the third eyelid gland to its anatomically correct position. It is vital that the gland not be simply removed, as it produces 50% of the watery portion of the tear film. Without that fraction of tear production, your dog or cat may develop a condition called dry eye. Dry eye can be detrimental to your pet’s vision.
[Joseph A. D’Abbraccio, DVM, of Catskill Veterinary Services, PLLC, can be contacted at email@example.com. For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/CatskillVeterinaryServices or www.catskillvetservices.com.]