Correcting Cherry Eye With Surgery

Cherry eye surgery is a simple procedure that corrects cherry eye in your dog, a condition where the tear gland behind the dog's third eyelid (the nictitating membrane), moves out of position or swells. The condition can occur in one eye or both, and occurs most frequently in young animals.

How Cherry Eye Occurs

Cherry eye is believed to be the result of a weak attachment between the tissue that connects the tear gland with other structures of the eye. This condition is believed to be genetic, making it more common in purebreds, particularly in small breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, and Beagles.

Why Correct Cherry Eye?

The condition is not painful for the animal, however it does cause tear production to stop, which can cause dry eye, or keratoconjunctivitis. This in turn causes red eyes. Cherry eye becomes a problem if the exposed gland becomes infected, which can increase the chance of mucous discharge or ulcers on the eye surface, as a result of contact with your dog's paws.

Surgery Alternatives

Some people believe that massage can counteract the effect of cherry eye. Though not as effective as surgery, using a combination of prescription antibiotic and steroid eye drops from your vet (with external massage of the closed eyelid), you may see results.

Gently close the eyelid on the affected eye, and slide your fingers softly over the eyelid towards the nose. Continue thick application of the eye drops while giving massage treatment. However, if massage doesn't fix the problem within two weeks, look into surgical options.

The Pocket Technique

The surgery to correct cherry eye includes the surgical movement of the tear gland, which prevents further infection. The pocket technique is considered the best procedure to correct cherry eye. Your vet will cut parallel incisions of each side of the tear gland, which he will suture together after repositioning the gland.

The vet will attempt to bury the knots from the sutures, or will try to add a second layer of suture material, in order to decrease the likelihood of breakage over the incision. There is an 85% success rate with the surgery, and prices range from vet to vet (anywhere from $100 to $1,000).

Tear Gland Removal

Should the pocket technique fail, some veterinarians encourage the removal of the tear gland. Though this gland is only responsible for a third of tear production, removing it may cause further red eye, dry eye, and prescribed eye drops to prevent corneal damage.