Picking off recurring cherry eye

02/02/2009 5:30 PM

02/02/2009 5:32 PM

Wrinkles has a cherry eye.

When it first showed up about four months ago, he went to see his veterinarian, but the problem had disappeared by the time he was examined.

Two weeks later, the cherry eye reappeared; the veterinarian prescribed an ointment.

"Cherry eye" does not involve the eye itself. If you carefully separate your dog's upper and lower eyelids while he is asleep, you can see a gland on the inner side of the lid. This nictitating membrane covers the eyeball and, in certain cases, can prolapse out of the eye and appear as a red mass protruding from under the lower eyelid closest to the nose. Its appearance was evidently compared to a cherry, hence the term "cherry eye."

After applying the ointment, the gland receded. About three weeks later, it prolapsed and was bigger than ever.

This prolapsing of the gland occurs most commonly with conditions that lead to inflammation of the gland. This can be from infection with bacteria or allergic response, sometimes both. Foreign material in the eye can lead to inflammation of the gland.

When the gland becomes inflamed, it becomes reddened and increases in size, which leads to protrusion from the eye socket.

Brachiocephalic breeds, dogs with short faces, are more susceptible. Wrinkles is one of those breeds. He is an American bulldog.

In Wrinkles' case, there was an intermittent response to the ointment, however the condition continues to redevelop.

Many of these cases do not clear with topical treatment. An ointment should first be prescribed, though, because if there is inflammation due to infection, there is a chance the antibiotic and anti-inflammatory ingredients can cure the condition. Alas, Wrinkles needs another approach.

One option is to surgically remove the gland. This will clear the problem but may predispose Wrinkles to keratitis sicca or dry eye. This decreased tear production can occur if the gland was a major contributor to tear production. This is not always the case, however, and there is no reliable way to know this before the gland is removed.

The other technique also involves surgery. Instead of removal, the gland is tacked down with suture material so that it can no longer prolapse. This technique is usually successful and allows the gland to continue producing tears. If there are no other problems with Wrinkles' eye, this is the procedure I would recommend.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.

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