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Eyes: Cherry Eye

Article refereed by Drs Jeff Smith and Cameron Whittaker at the Animal Referral Hospital, Homebush, Sydney

Dogs and cats have an extra eyelid in the corner of their eyes close to their nose. It acts a bit like a windshield wiper and is normally not visible. It can stretch across the eyeball to protect it whilst a pet sleeps.

The third eyelid has a gland in its base which helps fight infection/inflammation and produces tears. Inside the third eyelid is a T-shaped piece of cartilage which helps maintain its flat shape.

In some dogs, the gland at the base of the third eyelid swells up and causes the eyelid to roll out and become prominent. This looks like a raised reddened lump in the comer of the eye.

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The third eyelid gland may swell up for a number of reasons including infection and/or inflammation of the eye. Some pets have a genetic defect predisposition that causes the problem.


Normally, if an infection and or inflammation is suspected, we place local anaesthetic in the eye and by gently pulling the 3rd eyelid outwards, we can tuck the swollen gland back into the corner of the eye. We then use eye ointments containing anti-biotics and/or anti-inflammatories to try to get the gland to reduce in size. Unfortunately, this technique has a high failure rate and often the problem re-surfaces.

If the problem keeps re-occurring, then surgery becomes the best option.

See also...
Cherry eye operation