Dear Dr. Weaver,

A few days ago, I got an eight-week-old, male teacup Chihuahua. The first day we noticed his eye was a little watery but thought nothing of it. We took him to the animal hospital the next day because this red thing was popping out of his eye!

The vet gave us ointment and pushed it back in, but it popped back two days later which the vet said it probably would do. She recommended having the cherry eye pinned or removed. Can you tell me about both of these options in a little more detail? I have heard that pinning does not always work and is expensive. Removing the cherry eye may potentially cause other eye problems in the future, as well as the need for lubricating the eye frequently. What do you recommend, and why?

Thank you for you help!
Amber Holmes

Dear Amber,

Cherry eye, or prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid, is quite common in small dogs. The prolapsed gland itself rarely causes discomfort or damage to the eye, so the repair is mostly cosmetic. Most people choose to repair it, because it can have a very unpleasant appearance. If the gland does not return to the normal place with steroid ointment, surgery is the only cure.

A large portion of the eyes tear production comes from the involved gland, so removal can cause a dry eye which can lead to damaged vision. If this does happen, it is controllable with medications, but it is preferable to prevent it. The most successful surgical approach is the technique which tucks the gland down into the conjunctiva. The only risk with this technique is the potential for a small piece of suture to rub the cornea (which is easily fixed by removing the offending suture), and I rarely have recurrences.

The technique which tacks the gland to the edge of the eye socket can have a high failure rate, so I don’t recommend it any more. Currently, due to the potential for long term problems, I only recommend removing the gland if it has had a failed tack and even then only if it is really bothering the eye. I have only had to remove the gland one time in nearly sixteen years of practice, and I have had excellent results with the tucking-in technique.

-Dr. Weaver

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