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What is cherry eye in cats and dogs?

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

Both dogs and cats are born with a ‘third eyelid’ called the nictitating membrane, which sits in the inner corner of the eye. Its purpose is to clear mucus and debris from the cornea. Plus, it has a gland to create tears in order to lubricate the eye.

Cherry eye occurs when this gland prolapses and protrudes over the eyeball, producing a swollen pink mass in the corner of the eye. Our infographic tells you everything you need to know about cherry eye in cats and dogs.


Cherry eye in dogs and cats infographic

Causes of cherry eye

Cherry eye is commonly associated with a weakness of the connective tissue in the ligaments that hold the gland in place. However there are no preventative measures for the condition. It can affect any dog breed though unfortunately, 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. It can sometimes produce a thick discharge as well. If left untreated, it can lead to further infection, so it is important to have your pet examined by a vet as soon as you spot any symptoms.

Diagnosis and treatment

Your vet will look at the swollen area of your pet’s eye to determine the extent of the prolapse and work out the best way to treat it. Treatment of cherry eye usually involves a surgical procedure to reposition the gland. In some cases, anti-inflammatory medications, topical antibiotics and manual massage can correct the condition.

Want to learn more about potential eye conditions in pets? Our Vision Hub is full of helpful articles on everything from cataracts and conjunctivitis to entropion.