Frequently, pets are presented to us for evaluation of a large bump “on the eye” near the nose which is known as “Cherry Eye”. This problem is seen most often in the smaller breeds — especially Boston terriers, Cocker spaniels, bulldogs and beagles but can occur in any breed and can even occur in cats.
The cherry eye is actually an inflamed tear gland associated with the third eyelid (nictitans membrane). The normal canine eye receives its tear film from two lacrimal (tear-producing) glands. One gland is located above the eye and the other is found within the animal’s third eyelid. The gland of the third eyelid contributes a significant portion of secretion to the tear film (about 70%). The gland may swell up due to clogging of the duct, or irritation with particulate irritants or bacterial or viral infection. As it swells, it can “float” up from its normal position in back of the third eyelid, to the top of the gland. When the gland prolapses out of its normal position the venous drainage of the gland is impeded and so it remains bulbous. In addition, the gland cannot deliver its tears to the eye when it is in this position and the eye may begin to suffer from the lack of nutrients and lubrication found in the tears.
How Our Veterinary Treat Cherry Eye for Dogs and Cats of Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Fontana, and the Inland Empire
In older times, the prolapsed gland was treated like a small tumor; it was simply removed. This was before the full significance of the gland was realized. Most of the pets that had their glands removed in this fashion went on to develop dry eye syndrome. In this syndrome, the cornea of the eye begins to turn black with pigment as a result of lack of tears. These eyes are much more prone to infections and ulceration. Moreover, they are very uncomfortable to the pet.
Today, we treat “Cherry eye” by replacing the gland to its appropriate position and anchoring it there surgically. Simple manual replacement of the gland will not fix it as the gland will simple float back up in a few hours to a few days.
The surgical procedure is done under general anesthesia. A small incision is made near the bottom lid of eye and a special suture technique is employed to anchor the gland down to the bony orbit around the eye. After the surgery, topical antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops are applied 3-4 times daily. The pet must keep an Elizabethan collar on to prevent trauma to the surgical site. The gland may remain swollen for a few days, but since it is in the correct position, it can perform its function properly.
Occasionally (10%), this procedure may fail (usually due to suture rupture or tear out) and may have to be repeated.
In some pets from Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Fontana and the rest of the Inland Empire, the gland may have been out of position for so long, that the eye is suffering from dry eye syndrome. In this case, additional therapy may be instituted to help repair the cornea.