Have you noticed a swollen mass inside the corner of your dog’s eye? Is your dog easily irritated and is trying to scratch its eye? Do you notice excess or lack of tear production?
If your answer to these questions is yes, then your dog may have a cherry eye.
Cherry eye or Nictitans Gland Prolapse is when your dog’s third eyelid – the tear-producing gland – prolapses and protrudes leading to a red lump that is prone to infection and inflammation. While this is not life-threatening, cherry eye still demands immediate care.
Dogs aged two years and younger have an increased likelihood of developing this condition. Some dog breeds are also more prone to it than others, including Boston Terriers, Beagles, Shih Tzus, Pugs, and most brachycephalic dogs or those with short snouts.
Treatments and Their Costs
There are many ways to approach cherry eye. You can go the surgical route by surgical repositioning or removing the gland. Non-invasive methods are also available by massaging or applying steroids and antibiotics directly to the eye.
- Surgical Repositioning
The most common treatment for cherry eye is surgical repositioning. A veterinarian or veterinarian ophthalmologist will perform the surgery by either suturing the prolapse and encasing it in a layer of the conjunctiva (envelope or pocket method) or anchoring it to the globe of the eye (anchoring method).
Surgical repair boasts an 80 percent success rate.
Due to the gland’s importance in the dog’s vision, this is the treatment method highly recommended by veterinarians. However, the price of cherry eye removal surgery is also the most expensive.
Eye Specialists for Animals in Colorado charges $1,200 to $1,600 for cherry eye surgery depending on the severity. On the other hand, Affordable Animal Hospital in California offers it for $300 and above.
Helping Hands Veterinary offers one of the cheapest procedure rates at only $255.
Post-operative care will take one to two weeks before subsiding. A healing wound is typically itchy and swollen, thus, an Elizabethan collar should be worn during this time to prevent eye scratching.
- Surgical Removal
In the past, cherry eye removal was the most popular remedy for the condition. Sometime after proper diagnosis, the dog will be put under anesthesia and the gland will be removed. Sounds simple, right?
Gland excision has been recently discouraged as first-line of treatment due to its negative impact on the dog’s quality of life. Without the tear-producing gland, the dog’s eye will be constantly dry.
Moisturizing eye drops will need to be given several times a day for the rest of its life.
Due to the relatively simple procedure, cherry eye removal surgery is a bit cheaper than repositioning. Warm Springs Pet Hospital offers cherry eye removal at $300 per eye.
Dogs with their nictitating membrane removed are prone to developing dry eye syndrome or keratoconjunctivitis sicca which could damage the vision. To prevent this, regular eye maintenance should be carried out.
Moisturizing eye drops like Eye Restore for Dogs and Cats for pet eye care and dry eye are sold at around $16.
A non-surgical option is the use of a steroid eye ointment to reduce inflammation and antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary infections.
The OcluVet Eye Drops for Pets which costs $50 soothes the eye and provide the nutrients needed to repair the eye to its healthy state. NOLA PRIME Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Extract lessens inflammation in cherry eye for $30.95.
But keep in mind that non-invasive treatment is rarely effective and can only be used as a temporary remedy while considering or waiting for surgery.
A helpful home remedy for cherry eye is by very gently massaging its eye towards the inner corner. Make sure your dog is relaxed and tear production is stimulated before you start massaging.
Although unproven, many dog owners swear by massage as an effective treatment for this eye condition.
Cause of Cherry Eye in Canines
Most dogs and cats have a third eyelid – also called the nictitating membranes. These glands provide oxygen and nutrients to the eyes, thus, are essential for clear vision.
Sometimes, due to a defect in the tissue anchoring it to the eye socket, the gland will turn inside out and prolapse. When this happens, nourishment supply to the eyes is compromised which may lead to dry eye syndrome and other complications.
Cherry eye can occur abruptly and unexpectedly. One minute, your dog is perfectly fine; the next minute, there might be a red lump on its eye.
Its direct cause has not yet been identified, although links to a weak connective tissue and genetic predisposition have been suggested. There have also been reports that extreme emotional reactions like being excited or scared could trigger cherry eye in dogs.
Symptoms and Manifestations
A red swollen lump resembling a cherry, hence, the name, in the eye is the primary symptom. Aside from the obvious eyelid abnormality, dogs with cherry eye will also exhibit a change in behavior.
You may notice that your dog seems uncomfortable and restless. While it looks red and angry, it is not particularly painful.
A reaction to watch out for is when your dog attempts to relieve discomfort by pawing at the eye or rubbing its face on the floor and other surfaces. This could lead to eye infections and may worsen your dog’s condition.
If you notice these symptoms, immediately get your dog checked by a veterinarian.
How is it Diagnosed?
It is fairly easy to diagnose cherry eye in dogs given the prominent sign literally staring at you in the eye. Examining the conjunctiva and nictitating membrane will usually give a conclusive diagnosis.
However, it is still vital to have your veterinarian confirm it before initiating any treatment. Depending on your dog’s overall condition, a veterinarian may order further diagnostic tests to rule out serious diseases including cancer.
Cherry eye may occur in both eyes, so when it develops in one eye, monitor the other eye closely. Since the direct cause of this remains unknown, there are currently no preventative measures available.
Unfortunately, around 10 to 20 percent of dogs will relapse following the surgery. Most of these are dogs pre-disposed to the disorder and older dogs. When this happens, the same corrective method may be repeated.