Bulldog Health: Cherry Eye

They say English bulldogs can be walking veterinarian bills, and yup, our little Miss Roxy has her fair share of health issues--one of which was cherry eye, which was quite alarming since we knew nothing about this condition.

Roxy finds a handsome playmate
at the Humane Society Pet Walk.
We had taken Roxy to a Hawaii Humane Society Pet Walk and were thrilled to meet other bulldog owners. As the labradors, shiba inus and yes, even the pekinese pups made their way around Ala Moana Park, the bulldogs were hot, pooped and panting after a few hundred yards circling Magic Island. During a long session of enthusiastic and rough bully play, Roxy's eye became irritated when another dog drooled mud and frothy spittle onto her face. Almost immediately, her eye turned red and by the time we brought her home, the pink mucosa of her lower eyelid was swollen and inflamed, nearly obliterating her vision in the left eye.

Not Miss Roxy, but a photo to illustrate the extent of her cherry eye.

After much internet searching, we learned that cherry eye is a prolapse or protrusion of a dog's third eyelid (who knew they had three eyelids!), often associated with a "congenital weakness of the gland's attachment in the dog's eye" (PetMD). Certain breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs, Beagles, Bloodhounds, Lhasa Apsos, and Shih Tzus, are more predisposed to this condition. After reading that surgical intervention to remove the gland may be necessary (along with medical interventions such as eye drops to reduce the inflammation), we decided to explore less drastic options.

After cleaning her eye, we reduced the cherry eye by slowly and gently massaging it back into place, as illustrated in the video below, then applied cool wet compresses to the affected eye. The cherry eye recurred three times over the next 12 hours, and needed to be massaged back into place. Keeping Roxy calm, clean and comfortable over the long ordeal finally paid off. By the next day she had only a minor pink medial protrusion, which soon resolved.

Cherry eye should not be left unresolved, or other complications may arise. According to Dr. Jim Young, DVM,
"Dogs have three eyelids, upper lid, lower lid and the third eyelid. The third eyelid is under the lower eyelid in the corner toward the nose. There is a gland under the third eyelid. If this gland is swollen, it pops out as a little pink “cherry” in the inside corner of the eye. If we catch this early, we can show you how to replace the gland under the third eyelid and have you medicate the eye to get the gland to shrink back to normal size. If we are not successful in getting the gland to return to normal size and position, the cherry eye will need surgery.
There are two methods to surgically treat cherry eyes. We can remove the gland with laser surgery or we can refer your bulldog to a veterinary ophthalmologist to have the gland sutured back in place. Once a dog has had a cherry eye, he has an increased chance of having "dry eyes" later in life no matter what the treatment. Studies (in other breeds) have shown a lower chance of "dry eyes" with the suture down surgery."
Another good article: Cherry Eye in Bulldogs.

Disclaimer: This is a chronicle of our bulldog's healthcare experiences, and is not intended to give medical advice. It is best to have all health issues evaluated by a veterinarian.

©2012 Tammy Yee