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Dog with cherry eye

Cherry eye in cats and dogs

Both dogs and cats are born with a ‘third eyelid’ called the nictitating membrane, which is located in the inner corner of the eye. It clears mucus and debris off the cornea and has a gland to provide tears which lubricate the eye.

Cherry eye occurs when the gland prolapses from its position and protrudes over the visible portion of the eyeball, producing a swollen pink mass in the corner of the eye.

There are no known preventative measures for this condition. Cherry eye is rare in cats but can occur.

Causes of cherry eye

Cherry eye is commonly associated with a weakness of the connective tissue in the ligaments that holds the gland in place.

Cherry eye can affect any dog breed though some are more susceptible than others, including:

  • English Bulldog
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Shih Tzu
  • Shar-Pei
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Pug


Cherry eye will show as a red mass in the inner corner of the eye near the nose – in the area of the tear duct. It can sometimes produce a thick discharge as well.

If left untreated, it can become inflamed and irritated. This can lead to further infection, so it is important to have your pet examined by a vet as soon as you notice this.

Diagnosis & treatment

Your vet will examine the mass in your pet’s eye to determine the extent of the protrusion and the best way to treat it.

Treatment of cherry eye will usually involve a surgical procedure to reposition the gland back into place. In some cases, anti-inflammatory medications, topical antibiotics and manual massage can correct the condition.

Cherry eye infographic