Cherry Eye (prolapse nictitans gland) is not life-threatening, but if left untreated can be very distressing for the dog, and could cause other eye problems later on.
A dog’s eye has three eyelids; an upper and lower lid, as well as a third eyelid we seldom see. The importance of the third eyelid is to give added protection to the dog’s eyes. It acts like a wipe to help keep the eye clear of dust and debris and has a tear gland that produces around 35% of the moisture to the dog’s eye. Sometimes the gland in the third eyelid, located in the corner of the eye next to the dog’s nose, slips out of place and bulges. We see it as a red or pinkish blob, and this bulge is what’s called Cherry Eye.
If it happens in one eye it’s more than likely to happen in the other. A dog’s eye may develop a watery or thick discharge, a red or pink blob in the corner of their eye and redness in the lining of their eyelid. Even without those symptoms, a dog constantly pawing at an eye could indicate the onset of Cherry Eye.
Cherry Eye is entirely hereditary and dogs suffering from the condition should not be used for breeding. It’s not understood why some dogs get Cherry Eye, but it’s thought the cause could be from a parasite, some kind of bacterial infection, dermatitis, cancer, fungal infection or a problem with the dog’s immune system.
Cherry eye is usually seen in younger dogs between 6 weeks to 2 years and is more commonly found in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, West Highland Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Shar-Pei, Shih Tzu, Beagle, Pug, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Poodle, Newfoundland, Bloodhound, Bulldog, Neapolitan / Korean Mastiff.