Cherry Eye is defined as a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid. The medical term is glandular hypertrophy. The term Dry Eye describes changes that occur in the eye resulting from a lack of tears. Vets call this “KCS”, which stands for keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Both conditions are fairly common in dogs.
* In addition to the upper and lower eyelids, dogs and cats have a third eyelid that originates from the inside corner of the eye, the area closest to the nose. This third eyelid acts like a windshield wiper and helps protect the eye. In addition, it contains a gland that produces 30 to 60 percent of the tear film. The tears keep the clear front part of the eye called the cornea lubricated. Cherry Eye is the term used when this gland prolapses or pops out from the third eyelid.
* The exact cause of Cherry Eye is somewhat controversial. Some experts believe it is a genetic condition because cocker spaniels, beagles, bulldogs, and Pekingese seem to be predisposed. But other breeds including bloodhounds, great Danes and basset hounds are also commonly affected. Whether or not trauma is also a cause is still a matter of debate between veterinary eye specialists.
* In dogs with Cherry Eye the prolapsed gland is red and fleshy. It looks like a small cherry that suddenly pops up and protrudes from the corner of the eye. If one eye is affected, the other eye may or may not also be affected at a later date. Dogs with Cherry Eye are usually less than a year old. In addition to the redness and swelling, a clear or mucus discharge may also occur.
* The best treatment for Cherry Eye is to surgically replace the gland back inside the third eyelid. That way the gland continues to produce “tears: and the risk of Dry Eye and corneal ulceration are prevented. The prognosis for cases treated by replacing this gland is excellent.
* Past treatments included surgical removal of the gland, this often lead to a lack of tear film production which resulted in Dry Eye. Ignoring the Cherry Eye is another option. Sometimes it goes away on its own in two to three weeks, other times it leads to further eye disease. The owner and vet need to discuss treatment options, which will vary depending on the breed, financial considerations, and the owner’s personal wishes.
DRY EYE (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca)
* Tears supply the cornea with oxygen and nutrients; therefore they are essential to keep the cornea healthy. If the cornea is deprived of oxygen and food because of a lack of tear film, destructive changes occur quickly, leading to a condition called Dry Eye. The cornea can become pigmented, scarred, and ulcerated. Partial vision loss can also result. The eyes of dogs with Dry Eye burn and sting all the time just like ours do on a windy day. Diagnosis is made by a tear test that measures how many tears the eye produces in one minute. In this case, low levels of tear production are detected.
* Dry Eye can result from surgical removal of the gland of the 3rd eyelid in Cherry Eye cases. Other causes include low circulating levels of thyroid hormone as can occur in Thyroid Disease, tear gland infections caused by the Canine Distemper Virus, and Immune System Diseases like Cancer.
* Topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat secondary bacterial infections of the eye and reduce corneal inflammation, respectively. Lubricating eye ointments help keep the cornea moist. The drug Cyclosporine effectively relieves signs for many dogs and often also causes an increase in actual tear production. Pilocarpine and the anti-cancer drug Interferon also effectively stimulate tear production in certain cases.
* A surgical procedure called a Parotid Duct Transposition (PDT) is a worthwhile consideration for cases that do not respond to medication.
* With consistent therapy, most cases of Dry Eye carry a good prognosis, but without treatment, recurrent corneal ulcers, bacterial infections, and even blindness can result.
Zincum metallicum 30c, given twice daily, may be helpful in cases of Dry Eye, especially when the treatment is used in conjunction with topical eye lubricants like artificial tears.