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Dog’s Tear Duct Sticking Out? It’s Cherry Eye

Notice a smooth, bright red or pink bulge in the inner corner of your dog’s eye? Your pup is experiencing a prolapsed nictitating gland, more commonly known as cherry eye.

This condition is common and fairly unmistakable, but prompt medical attention is important to avoid complications. Here’s what pet parents need to know about cherry eye. 

breeds at risk for cherry eyeWhat is cherry eye in dogs?

Puppy eyes are irresistible, but did you know that dogs have a unique third eyelid? This eyelid, called the nictitating membrane, produces the tears that keep dogs’ eyes lubricated and serves as a barrier that protects the cornea from scratches as they run through tall grass and brush. 

Sometimes, the connective tissue of the eye can weaken, and the tear duct housed within the nictitating membrane can thicken and slip out of place. The prolapsed tear duct somewhat resembles a cherry pit — hence the name “cherry eye.”

Can you prevent cherry eye?

Unfortunately, there’s nothing pet parents can do to prevent cherry eye. It’s primarily caused by genetics and is more common in younger dogs. 

What are the risks?

Cherry eye may be common, but it requires quick attention from a vet. 

The nictitating gland prolapse will inhibit the production of tears in the affected eye. If left untreated, it can lead to dry-eye severe enough to cause extreme pain, eye damage, and even blindness.

Dogs may also scratch or paw at a prolapsed tear duct, causing it to bleed or become infected. 

Dog Breeds Prone to Cherry Eyedogs prone to cherry eye

Breeds with short muzzles, like pugs and Pekingese, are disproportionately likely to experience cherry eye.

While it can happen to any pup regardless of breed, it’s commonly seen in:

  • Beagles
  • Great Danes
  • Shih Tzus
  • French Bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • English Bulldogs
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Shar Peis 

How is cherry eye treated?

Occasionally cherry eye can be resolved with prescription steroid drops, but the condition typically requires an operation. 

Your vet will confirm the diagnosis of cherry eye, and then surgically reposition the prolapsed gland and stitch it into place. 

A word of caution:

 Certain “home remedies” may recommend attempting to massage the prolapsed gland into place. Not only can this cause your pup severe pain, but it can also injure the extremely delicate structures of the eye.

Reach out to your veterinarian to explore treatment options as soon as you notice cherry eye. Acting quickly can prevent permanent damage to your dog’s vision.