Pet Care Basics

Cherry Eye in Dogs

November 29, 2022

Cherry Eye in Dogs

Last updated: December 13, 2016

Have you ever noticed a small red lump of tissue in the corner of your pup's eye? It looks unsightly and may even prevent someone from wanting to choose that dog. But the good news is it's curable and preventable.

This is a condition called cherry eye and it is actually the lymph node off of the third eyelid causing the issue. Like all lymph nodes, when irritated it becomes swollen and enlarged. On the third eyelid this lymph node is normally behind the lid in a pouch. When swollen it can pop out of the pouch, turn outward and become enlarged causing permanent cherry eye tissue.

It Often Starts with Irritation

Any irritation or infection of the eye can start the issue that will eventually lead to cherry eye. In older animals, allergens can be the cause, but in puppies it is often just eye irritation left untreated.

Early Treatment and Prevention are Key

The best way to prevent cherry eye is to treat eye irritation right away when it happens. Doing this lets the irritated lymph node go down and prevents it from becoming permanently swollen. Drops can be used; however, antibiotic ointments or gels have a longer-lasting effect in eye tissue and are the most common treatment. If no ulcer is seen on the cornea, an ointment with hydrocortisone is best at taking the swelling down.

When we first see the irritated swelling in puppies it's important to quickly treat the eye with Vetericyn® Ophthalmic Gel. Doing this helps the swelling go down and eye goes back to normal.

Cherry eye is often a problem that appears post weaning. Treating the eye to sooth irritation twice a week at six and seven weeks of age will usually prevent the issue.

How Seasons Play a Role

The most common times when cherry eye happens is in the fall when heating units dry out the air and during spring pollen season. The key is treating the irritated eye early. Ointment and gels do that job best!

When Surgery is Necessary

Surgical intervention is not preferred but may be necessary. Consult your veterinarian if you have a case where you think surgery may be necessary. Cherry eye poses little issue for the puppy or adult dog but is unsightly. If you are able to treat the irritated eye early and decrease the swelling of the third eyelid, most dogs can avoid surgery all together and that is what we all prefer.

-Dr. B
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

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