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Cherry Eye ~ Prolapse of The Tear Gland of The Third Eyelid

The normal canine eye receives its tear film from two lacrimal (tear-producing) glands. One gland is located above the eye and the other is found within the animal's third eyelid. The gland of the third eyelid contributes a significant portion of secretion to the tear film.

In the smaller breeds -- especially Boston Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs and Beagles -- the gland of the third eyelid is not strongly held in place. The gland prolapses out to where the owner notices it as a reddened mass. Out of its normal position, the gland does not circulate blood properly and may swell.


In older times, the prolapsed gland was treated like a small tumor; it was simply removed. This was before the full significance of the gland was realized.

If the third eyelid's tear gland is removed, it cannot be put back. If the other tear gland cannot supply adequate tears (not uncommon in older small breeds) then treatment for "dry eye" must be instituted. Not only is dry eye uncomfortable for the pet, its treatment is often frustrating and time-consuming. We would like the dog to maintain the greatest amount of functioning tear producing tissue possible and this means replacing the gland in its proper location.


This surgery is the only acceptable treatment of "Cherry Eye." Here, the gland is gently sewn back into place where it can resume tear production. The patient stays in our hospital over night so that the suture position may be checked in the morning.

This surgery is notorious for failure, meaning that the tear gland may re-prolapse. If, after surgical repair, the Cherry Eye recurs, we recommend that the second surgery be performed by a specialist in Veterinary Ophthalmology. Should this need arise your veterinarian should assist you with the necessary paperwork transfer and referral.

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists also has a web site which includes an index of veterinary eye specialists. This site may be visited at:


Provided by Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DABVP
of the
Mar Vista Animal Medical Center

Reprinted with Permission ~ 22 May 2000

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