“Cherry eye” is the term often used to describe protrusion of the tear gland associated with the third eyelid membrane in the corner of the eye. This occurs due to weakness in the gland’s normal attachments and is thought to be an inherited abnormality in several breeds of dogs, including the English Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel, Lhasa Apso, and Shar Pei. It is also seen in Burmese cats where it may be related to abnormalities in the membrane itself as well as the gland. “Cherry eye” often affects both eyes although the second gland may prolapse several months after the first.
Treatment for Cherry Eye involves surgically replacing the gland into its normal position and attaching it with sutures. This gland is responsible for producing approximately a third of the tear volume to the surface of the eye. Thus, removal of the gland is not recommended as this can compromise tear function and can lead to development of “dry eye” later in life.
Surgery for this condition is done under general anesthesia. Your pet is able to go home the same afternoon. There may be some swelling and redness of the eye which will resolve over the first 3-5 days. Cherry Eye Surgery is most likely to be successful if it is done soon after the gland prolapses. With time, prolonged swelling of the gland can make repositioning more difficult and recurrence more likely.