Cherry Eye and Dry Eye in Dogs

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Cherry Eye is defined as a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid. The medical term is glandular hypertrophy. The term Dry Eye describes changes that occur in the eye resulting from a lack of tears. Vets call this “KCS”, which stands for keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Both conditions are fairly common in dogs.


* In addition to the upper and lower eyelids, dogs and cats have a third eyelid that originates from the inside corner of the eye, the area closest to the nose. This third eyelid acts like a windshield wiper and helps protect the eye. In addition, it contains a gland that produces 30 to 60 percent of the tear film. The tears keep the clear front part of the eye called the cornea lubricated. Cherry Eye is the term used when this gland prolapses or pops out from the third eyelid.

* The exact cause of Cherry Eye is somewhat controversial. Some experts believe it is a genetic condition because cocker spaniels, beagles, bulldogs, and Pekingese seem to be predisposed. But other breeds including bloodhounds, great Danes and basset hounds are also commonly affected. Whether or not trauma is also a cause is still a matter of debate between veterinary eye specialists.
* In dogs with Cherry Eye the prolapsed gland is red and fleshy. It looks like a small cherry that suddenly pops up and protrudes from the corner of the eye. If one eye is affected, the other eye may or may not also be affected at a later date. Dogs with Cherry Eye are usually less than a year old. In addition to the redness and swelling, a clear or mucus discharge may also occur.
* The best treatment for Cherry Eye is to surgically replace the gland back inside the third eyelid. That way the gland continues to produce “tears: and the risk of Dry Eye and corneal ulceration are prevented. The prognosis for cases treated by replacing this gland is excellent.
* Past treatments included surgical removal of the gland, this often lead to a lack of tear film production which resulted in Dry Eye. Ignoring the Cherry Eye is another option. Sometimes it goes away on its own in two to three weeks, other times it leads to further eye disease. The owner and vet need to discuss treatment options, which will vary depending on the breed, financial considerations, and the owner’s personal wishes.

DRY EYE (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca)

* Tears supply the cornea with oxygen and nutrients; therefore they are essential to keep the cornea healthy. If the cornea is deprived of oxygen and food because of a lack of tear film, destructive changes occur quickly, leading to a condition called Dry Eye. The cornea can become pigmented, scarred, and ulcerated. Partial vision loss can also result. The eyes of dogs with Dry Eye burn and sting all the time just like ours do on a windy day. Diagnosis is made by a tear test that measures how many tears the eye produces in one minute. In this case, low levels of tear production are detected.
* Dry Eye can result from surgical removal of the gland of the 3rd eyelid in Cherry Eye cases. Other causes include low circulating levels of thyroid hormone as can occur in Thyroid Disease, tear gland infections caused by the Canine Distemper Virus, and Immune System Diseases like Cancer.
* Topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat secondary bacterial infections of the eye and reduce corneal inflammation, respectively. Lubricating eye ointments help keep the cornea moist. The drug Cyclosporine effectively relieves signs for many dogs and often also causes an increase in actual tear production. Pilocarpine and the anti-cancer drug Interferon also effectively stimulate tear production in certain cases.
* A surgical procedure called a Parotid Duct Transposition (PDT) is a worthwhile consideration for cases that do not respond to medication.
* With consistent therapy, most cases of Dry Eye carry a good prognosis, but without treatment, recurrent corneal ulcers, bacterial infections, and even blindness can result.

Zincum metallicum 30c, given twice daily, may be helpful in cases of Dry Eye, especially when the treatment is used in conjunction with topical eye lubricants like artificial tears.

12 Responses to “Cherry Eye and Dry Eye in Dogs”

  1. fireyspirit_2007 Says:

    i live in leamington ontario canada
    i have a 6 month cockerspaniel who is just a true character
    with an awesome personality
    she has cherry eye
    the problem is that she has been to a vet
    but the cost for her to have the eye surgery done will cost some where around $1 000 dollars that i cant possibly afford
    i hate to see her eye like this
    so i was wondering is there any home remedies that would help it go back to normal or that would help with the problem
    i have also tried to find an organization group that would help with the cost
    but have had no luck
    please help with some advice

  2. Dr. Carol Osborne Says:

    Hi Starstormer,
    Ask your vet to show you how to massage the eye to get the cherry eye to pop back into the eye properly. Surgery is not a must for this and is actually contraversial at this point. You need to lubricate his eye daily, cod liver oil-a couple drops placed into the eye 2-3 timed daily will help with this. I carry it or you may find it closer to you. I am glad to talk to you and am available toll free at 1-866-372-2765.
    Thank you
    Dr Carol

  3. diddywinks Says:

    Hi, I’m the proud owner of “muttksie” ShitTsu X terrier x -wo was 2yrs old when we found each other. At that time he was recovering from removal of his 3rd eyelid surgery – reason unknown. he’d been in an abusive situation. He has developed allergies – many of them.At any rate, he has KCS, of course. The vet RXC’d Cyclosporin -Optimmune; which works – but i’m not sure if i want to continue using a drug that the pharmacutical companies “aren’t sure why it works”. I’d like to know if I can give him an OTC artifical tear preparation, when the KCS isn’t acting up badly & if possibly giving him artifical tears might not keep the KCS at bay, to a certain extent. Unfortunately, i’m on a disability pension, which the people at the front counter at the vet’s seem to forget & i have a hard time getting to talk to the vet on the phone; as opposed to making an appt. to see him any ideas would be apreciated by both myself & by Winks, my dog (slight pun on his condition).
    Thx – diddywinks

  4. Dr. Carol Says:

    Hi Diddlywinks,
    I carry a wonderful all natural herbal eye supplement available at, under dog eyes that would be very helpful for your dog. I also carry pure norwegian cod liver oil, which comes in a 1 ounce bottle. The cost is $9.95. You would apply 2 drops into each eye twice daily. This would moisturize his eyes and provides vitamins A and D as well as essential omega 3,6 fatty acids. This is far superior to artificial tears and although its not yet on my web site I carry it here in my hospital. You can call me toll free at 1-866-372-2765. I can talk with you and send it to you if you like.
    Thank you
    Dr Carol

  5. scoobyblu33 Says:

    One of my dogs, a 1 1/2 year old boston bulldog, has had a cherry eye for about 6-8 months now. It had never seemed to bother him until lately, he has been trying to keep the affected eye closed at times. It seems to be causing him disscomfort. My wife and I have been looking into possible procedures such as tucking down to the conjuctiva, or the eye socket, and of course removal. I would much rather have it tucked in rather than removed, but i have heard that the success rate for the gland staying put is not that great. Have you seen or heard this before? Which procedure would you recommend?

  6. Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM Says:

    I am glad to talk to you and can help you
    You can get a 2nd opinion from a board certified veteriary ophthalmologist
    Its generally best not to remove the gland as this has many adverse effects such as chronic dry eye.
    I carry pure norwegian virgin cod liver oil eye drops-its $9.99 for an ounce which would last you about 6 months. You place 2 drops twice daily into the eyes
    You can also ask your vet to show you how to simply manually masage the gland back into place so you can do this yourself when it pops out and this is very easy to do.
    Feel free to call me toll free at 1 866 372 2765 and we can discuss this
    Thank you
    Dr Carol

  7. MulliganSue Says:

    My dog, a sweet and precious Westie-Schnauzer, has been my companion for almost eight years; she is about 11 years old. This past year she has had her share of medical issues and I have been to several veterinarians, a doggie internist and been recommended to visit a doggie detmatologist. I have spent close to $2,000. with no help at all!

    The texture of her hair has changed dramatically. It has thinned out with several areas where she has chewed the hair away and a sore remains. She has several areas that are red and she is constantly scratching. She has been repeatedly tested for mange…negative. I wash her regularly with oatmeal shampoo and was also using a prescription shampoo for yeast and bacteria; that is what has been diagnosed to date with her skin! I rinse her with aloe vera juice to help with the itchiness!

    She has all the characteristics of Cushings Sydrome but blood work comes back negative. The internist did an ultrasound and advised she has an enlarged liver, but made no recommendations. Just provided me with a bill close to $700. advising that she may have atypical Cushings and the blood work for that would be close to $700. Do Vets assume we humans are made of money? Wish I were!

    She has just developed Cherry Eye. Although I do not like the appearance, my concern is more that it is uncomfortable. I read your recommendation of the cod liver oil eye drops. I am willing to try if they will help.

    My concern is the texture of her hair and what I can do to help that along with the atypical Cushings and scratching. The Cherry Eye is just one more issue. I add some fish to her food, and I also open two capsules of fish, flaxseed, borage, safflower oil complex along with a few drops of Vitamin E. I was giving her an acidopholous capsule, but have become lax about that. Milk Thistle was recommended in one book for the enlarged liver.

    I read that you recommended the cod liver oil drops and a massage that could help the gland go back into the eye. Is there a way you could explain the technique in detail, perhaps uploading some sketches to reinforce your written word? I have little confidence in the vets…they take my money but give me little recommendations!

    I love this little girl and want to do what is best for her. I had a great vet and he is no longer practicing in my area. I hope you can offer some treatment that can help her. I realize she has many issues! Thank you for your website and support you provide pet owners.

  8. talaynak Says:

    I just bought a 9 week old Boston Terrier pup four days ago. The next day we noticed that he was having a problem with is eye. We took him in and were told that it was in fact Cherry Eye and that we needed to have the surgery done immediately. We talked to our breeder and she offered to take the dog back, but within 24 hours of the diagnosis the gland went back. We didnt do anything, it went back on it’s own. I talked to my vet this morning and he said that it had prolapsed due to a lack of sleep and the shock of being in a new home. I dont understand how that has any effect on the tissue in the dogs eyes. Is this really a possibility?

  9. Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM Says:

    Hi Talaynak
    Cherry eye is not uncommon in Boston Terriers. As a vet for over 25 years I have never heard of this occuring due to lack of sleep or due to the shock of a new home, although it may be possible. The gland often prolapses then at any time may revert back to normal with or without maual massage/manipulation.
    You might consider seeing a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist for a 2nd opinion
    I do not recommend the surgery as there are many adverse post op problems-often worse than the cherry eye itself.
    I am glad to talk to you
    Thank you
    Dr Carol

  10. Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM Says:

    Hi MulliganSue,
    Your dogs situation definately needs resolution. I can help you and am glad to work with you. The best way for me to help you would be for you to email me blood and other lab results and once I review them we can discuss and then I would be able to offer specific suggestions and solutions.
    I am available toll free at 1-866-372-2765.
    Thank you
    Dr Carol

  11. MulliganSue Says:

    Dr. Carol-
    Thank you for your prompt response. I will contact the Vets that did bloodwork and labs, along with ultrasound reports, for copies. Once I receive them I will send them to you for evaluation.
    I must acknowledge that you are the first ray of hope for my Mulligan Sue! Thank you so much! Needless to say I was in great frustration over not getting answers after repeated visits to specialists.

  12. Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM Says:

    Hi MulliganSue
    I will wait to receive your lab work then we will decifer all this and get your dog fixed up properly.
    Thank you
    Dr Carol

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