Cherry Eye in Dogs: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Cherry Eye, medically known as nictitans gland prolapse or prolapsed third eyelid gland, is a common eye condition that affects dogs, particularly certain breeds. This condition occurs when the tear gland in the third eyelid becomes inflamed, causing it to protrude and resemble a small, reddish-pink mass in the corner of the eye. While not usually painful, Cherry Eye can lead to discomfort and potential complications if left untreated. Understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventive measures for Cherry Eye is essential for dog owners and veterinarians to provide the best care and support for their beloved canine companions. In this in-depth article, we explore Cherry Eye in relation to dogs, shedding light on its significance and the measures necessary to promote optimal eye health.

Understanding Cherry Eye

Cherry Eye is named after its appearance, as the affected gland resembles a small cherry or berry in the corner of the dog’s eye. The condition primarily affects young dogs, usually under the age of two, but can occur in dogs of any age. While it can develop in both eyes, it more commonly affects one eye at a time.

Causes of Cherry Eye

The exact cause of Cherry Eye is not always clear, but it is thought to be related to a weakening of the connective tissues that hold the tear gland in place. Some potential contributing factors include:

  1. Genetics: Certain dog breeds, such as Bulldogs, Beagles, and Cocker Spaniels, are more predisposed to Cherry Eye due to their genetic makeup.
  2. Anatomical Factors: Dogs with shallow eye sockets or weak connective tissues may be more susceptible to gland prolapse.
  3. Trauma: Injury to the eye area or rubbing of the eyes may trigger Cherry Eye in some cases.

Symptoms of Cherry Eye

The most noticeable symptom of Cherry Eye is the appearance of a red or pink mass in the corner of the dog’s eye. Other signs may include:

  1. Excessive Tearing: Dogs with Cherry Eye may produce more tears than usual due to irritation.
  2. Eye Irritation: The affected eye may be red, swollen, or show signs of discomfort.
  3. Rubbing or Pawing: Dogs may rub or paw at their eyes in response to the irritation.
  4. Sensitivity to Light: Some dogs may squint or avoid bright lights due to increased sensitivity.

Diagnosing Cherry Eye

Diagnosing Cherry Eye is typically straightforward, as the characteristic protruding gland is visible upon examination. In some cases, additional tests may be performed to rule out other eye conditions.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for Cherry Eye may include:

  1. Surgical Correction: Surgical repositioning of the prolapsed gland is the most common treatment to restore normal eye anatomy.
  2. Medical Management: In certain cases, anti-inflammatory medications may be used to reduce gland swelling temporarily.

Preventive Measures

While Cherry Eye cannot always be prevented, responsible breeding practices can help minimize the risk of the condition in predisposed breeds. Additionally, avoiding trauma or eye rubbing can help reduce the likelihood of gland prolapse.


Cherry Eye is a common eye condition that affects certain dog breeds, especially young dogs. Understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventive measures is crucial for dog owners and veterinarians to provide the best care and support for their affected companions. Early detection and appropriate medical intervention can greatly improve outcomes and the quality of life for dogs with Cherry Eye. By promoting awareness and taking preventive measures, we can ensure that our beloved canine friends maintain optimal eye health and well-being throughout their lives.