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The medical term for 'cherry eye' is nictitans gland prolapse, or prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid. Unlike people, dogs have a 'third eyelid' that contains a tear gland and is located in the corner of each eye. Under normal circumstances, this gland is not visible and aids in the production of tears. For some reason, which is not completely understood, the gland of the third eyelid prolapses or comes out of its normal position and swells creating the condition known as cherry eye.

What dogs are likely to get cherry eye?

Any dog can develop cherry eye, but there are several breeds that appear to have a higher incidence of developing it in both eyes. They are: the Beagle, Bloodhound, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Lhasa Apso, Saint Bernard, and Shar-Pei. Dogs can acquire this condition at any age and it affects males and females equally.

What causes it?

The exact cause of cherry eye is not known, but it is strongly suspected that it is due to a weakness of the connective tissue that attaches the gland to the surrounding structures of the eye. The weakness of the connective tissue allows the gland to prolapse. Once the gland prolapses and is exposed to the dry air and irritants, it can become infected and/or begin to swell. The gland often becomes irritated, red, and swollen. There is sometimes a mucous discharge and if the animals rub or scratch at it, they can traumatize the gland further or possibly create anulcer on the surface of the eye.

What is the treatment?

Treatment of cherry eye is very straightforward and consists of surgically repositioning the gland. Topical or injectable treatments of antibiotics and steroids are rarely effective in reducing the gland and allowing for correction without surgery. Because the exposed gland is at greater risk for further trauma or infection, prompt surgical replacement is the best choice. At one time, it was popular to surgically remove the gland as a way to correct this condition. While this procedure is often effective, it can create many problems later in the animals life. The gland of the third eyelid is very important for the production of tears. Without the tears produced by the third eyelid many dogs could suffer from the condition known as 'dry eye.' Dry eye or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is a serious condition that results from the decreased production of tears. When the third eyelid gland is removed, we are greatly increasing the chances for the development of this condition. The much better and preferred surgical option is to surgically tack the gland back into place with a suture that attaches the gland to the deeper structures of the eye socket. Most of these surgeries are performed quickly and have very few complications, and allow the gland to return to normal function. After the surgery, some animals may need to be placed on antibiotic ointment for a few days.

Entropion is a condition in which the lower eyelid margins roll inward to the extent that hair rubs on the surface of the eyeball. In some cases, the upper lid can also be affected to some degree. One or both eyes may be involved. This condition can occur in all breeds, however, Spaniels, Great Danes, Shar-Peis, Poodles, and Saint Bernards seem to be the most frequently affected breeds, suggesting this is an inherited trait.

What are the signs of entropion?

  • Eyelids appear to roll inward
  • Excessive tearing
  • Winking/Squinting
  • Eyes will appear red or inflamed
  • Holding the eye shut completely
  • Painful eyes causing dogs to paw and rub
  • Sensitivity to light

What are the risks of entropion?

Left untreated, severe eye infections may develop. The cornea can become severely irritated or damaged as the chronic abrasion by the inverted lower lid wears away at its surface. In some cases, deep ulcers form in the cornea, even to the point of rupturing through its surface. This quickly leads to intraocular infections and potential blindness.

What is the management?

Once diagnosed, surgery is the only treatment. There are several different techniques, but typically, a small incision is made below the lid, a small portion of skin is removed, and when the two sides of the incision are then sutured, it pulls the border of the lid downward into a normal position. Antibiotic ointments may be applied, if infections are present.


Ectropion is used to describe a condition where the lower lids are loose, causing a drooping of the eyelid's margins. The lower lids actually turn outward. One or both eyes may be involved. It can occur in any breed, but it is inherited in American Cocker Spaniels, Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, and Bloodhounds.

What are the signs of ectropion?

As the lower lid sags downward, the underlying conjunctiva is exposed. This forms a pouch or pocket, allowing pollens, grasses, dust, etc., to accumulate and rub against the sensitive conjunctiva. This is a constant source of irritation in these dogs, leading to increased redness of the conjunctiva and excessive watering of the eye, which then spills out over the lower lid and face.

What are the risks of ectropion?

Many dogs live normal lives with ectropion. However, some develop repeated eye infections due to the collection of dirt, dust, etc., within the eye. Therefore, the risks are minor except in severe cases, where secondary eye infections may develop.

What is the management of ectropion?

Some dogs require no treatment; however, if eye irritations develop, medical attention is advisable. Mild cases can be treated with eye drops or salves to alleviate irritations and/or infections when they occur. In severe cases, a surgical procedure is preferred, which removes excess tissue, thereby tightening the lids and removing the abnormal pocket.

The conjunctiva is the pink tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelids and covers the front portions of the eyeball except the clear transparent cornea. It is a protective layer that contains special glands whose secretions help maintain normal eye health.
Conjunctivitis is used to describe the conjunctiva when it becomes reddened, congested, and painful. It may occur in one or both eyes, depending upon the cause. Causes of conjunctivitis include:

- foreign material such as dust or pollen, or even larger particles
- chemicals such as shampoo
- infectious causes - bacteria, viruses, fungi or others
- polluted water
- smoke

Other causes may be due to birth defects, serious internal diseases, and allergic reactions.
Laboratory tests, including blood cell counts, conjunctival scrapings and cultures, may be needed to help determine the cause and therefore allow effective treatment. Attempts should be made to prevent further irritation to your pet’s eyes from such things as contaminated water, soap, dust, sprays, smoke, trauma, etc.

Treatment usually consists of antibiotic drops or ointment, topical pain relievers, and sometimes systemic or oral medications depending on the underlying cause. Steroids may also be of benefit, but only if there is not a corneal ulcer present.

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) is a condition seen in dogs which usually results in a rapid degeneration of the retina leading to irreversible, complete vision loss over a few days to a few weeks.  The retina usually appears normal when initially examined because the degeneration occurs so rapidly.  Over time, the retina will eventually show evidence of degeneration when examined.

What Causes SARDS?

The cause of SARDS is unknown at this time.  It has been shown that it is not an inherited (genetic) disorder.  It is currently thought that it is a toxic reaction in the retina possibly related to fat by- products, hormonal and immune-mediated causes.

What is a typical scenario?

The disease normally occurs in middle-age to older dogs which are commonly overweight.  Female dogs are affected more often than male dogs. SARDS may occur in any breed including mixed breed dogs, however, of the pure bred dogs, dachshunds and schnauzers appear to be predisposed. The disease is often associated with an increase in thirst, urination, and weight gain. SARDS may be associated with Cushing’s disease, a condition associated with overproduction of corticosteroids by the adrenal gland. If symptoms are suggestive of Cushing’s disease blood testing is recommended. Diagnosis SARDS is usually confirmed by performing an electrical function test of the retina called an Electroretinogram (ERG). Since the retina appears normal on initial evaluation this test is necessary to distinguish SARDS from other causes of blindness including central nervous system disorders of the optic nerve or the brain. If a dog has SARDS, the ERG will show an absence of retinal activity. If the retinal activity is not extinguished, additional diagnostic testing may be required to determine the cause of the blindness.

What is the treatment and what are the expectations?

There is no known treatment available for SARDS.  This condition not a painful disorder; pets remain comfortable and pain free. In pets that are positive for Cushing’s disease, treatment of Cushing’s disease is recommended because this disease can have adverse effects on other body systems. Treatment of the Cushing’s disease will not improve vision. Since pets with SARDS have rapid vision loss, initially adjustment to their home environment takes a few weeks time to adapt to the changes. Pets’ strong sense of smell and memory and hearing are important during their adaptive period.

If you think your pet has an ocular emergency please call the Roslyn-Greenvale Veterinary Group at 516-621-4010 to schedule an appointment immediately.

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