How to Treat Cherry Eye in Dogs

Cherry eye is more common in smaller dogs.

Cherry eye is more common in smaller dogs.

Unlike humans, our pooches have a third eyelid. If the gland in the third eyelid pops out, it creates a cherry-like mass that is unpleasant-looking. Your pooch is not in pain; however, cherry eye does need attention to avoid possible irritation and dry eye.

Examine your dog. Place him in a well-lit room and look into his eyes. The cherry-like mass will be located in the bottom left corner of his eye. The mass is the tear-producing gland located in the third eyelid. Because of weakness in the eyelid, the gland can pop out easily, causing a reddened, swollen mass.

Call your vet. Though cherry eye is not painful, if your pup is rubbing and pawing his eye, the eye is probably irritated and may bleed -- leading to infection. The tear gland serves an important function: it’s one of two glands that spreads tear film over the corneal surface and protect the cornea from foreign particles.

Discuss possible treatments with your veterinary, once he has examined your dog. Steroid ointment may help the gland return to its normal position, but if the ointment does not work, you need to consider surgery.

Talk with your veterinary about the surgery options. Removal of the tear gland is usually not recommended because the tear gland produces 40 to 50 percent of the tears needed to avoid dry eye, which leads to inflammation of the cornea. Repositioning the gland or pushing the gland back into place are the two surgical options.

Decide between the two procedures to save the tear gland. The most common procedure is a pocket technique, whereby the surgeon creates a new pocket near the original place. The gland is then tucked into the pocket, which is sutured closed. Another procedure is to remove a wedge of tissue over the actual gland. The stitches used to close the gap also tightens the incision margins, causing the gland to move back into place, according to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center.

Plan on giving your buddy special care after the surgery. Your vet will probably prescribe antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory eye drops or ointment for seven to 10 days after the surgery. Rest is important for your pooch for five to seven days. Swimming and bathing should not occur for at least two weeks after surgery.

Items you will need

  • Veterinary assistance
  • Steroid ointment (optional)


  • The breeds that most often have cherry eye are the cocker spaniel, bulldog, basset hound and beagle.


  • Even if the cherry eye is not bothering your dog, don't ignore it. Let your vet examine your pooch.
  • Surgery is not 100 percent foolproof. The gland can pop back out.

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About the Author

Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.

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