The ‘third eyelid’ or Cherry Eye is a condition that develops when the nictitating membrane or third eyelid is shifted from its position and protrudes over part of the eye.
Apart from cats and dogs, the third eyelid can be found in a variety of animals and also plays a significant role in vision, allowing more oxygen to enter the eye.
Cherry eye happens when the third eyelid gets separated from its anchorage and surrounding the eye, becomes inflamed with infection because of external trauma.
External elements dry out the sensitive tissue, and inflammation, as well as extreme swelling and irritation, is typically the result.
The disease is widespread in younger dogs along with a variety of dog breeds that seem to be especially sensitive.
The Cherry Eye may also occur in cats, although it is much less likely. The most common breed affected among cats is the Burmese. However, it is not assumed that the disease is a genetic disorder.
Nictitating membranes are found in both eyes, and each can be influenced equally. A simple surgery to remove the offending membrane is performed to prevent ongoing infections and more risk to the animal’s health.
Aside from the apparent ‘cherry-like’ third eyelid, the condition can be defined by noticing a lack of tear control. The dog or cat will initially produce tears in excessive quantities, followed by a long period of insufficient production of tears.
If the condition isn’t resolved within a reasonable period, Cherry Eye may lead to bacterial infection involving severe ocular conditions. The effect may be the loss of eyesight and even complete blindness.
Symptoms of cherry eye
Cherry Eye will give a very detailed list of symptoms for owners of infected animals. One minute, your dog or cat will appear fully healthy, and then the next minute the detached third eyelid will appear.
Approximately one-third of your pet’s eye can protrude and be a rosy pink or red colour.
Other signs that follow Cherry Eye include:
- Unusual development of tears: You will most likely find that an excessive number of tears are created by your pet, particularly in the early stages. They will start developing an insufficient amount of tears after some time with the prolapsed membrane
- Vision impairment: It’s normal for Cherry Eye dogs and cats to develop a loss of vision. The animals affected can not correctly measure height or distance. They stumble or bump into obvious and common obstructions
- Your pet may squint to protect its eyes from the elements: The third eyelid can dry out and become contaminated with dust and air, causing a great deal of pain
- Extreme irritation: Infected animals will regularly rub or paw at the eyes to alleviate discomfort. This behaviour helps to bring about infection faster
- Your pet may develop conjunctivitis as a consequence of the prolapsed membrane. Look for redness and any unnatural discharge inside and around the eye
Cherry Eye is diagnosed by performing a physical examination of the animal affected. The veterinarian may often inquire about the pet’s past, its environment, and during what time the prolapse took place. Other tests may not be needed for diagnosis if the animal is one of the most affected breeds and below age two.
Development in or around the eye in older dogs could be cancer and not the Cherry Eye. The veterinarian would typically perform more tests in these cases, including a biopsy and a blood sample test.
Your vet will also perform an ophthalmic or comprehensive examination of the eye’s function to ensure that no other conditions are present. The removal or replacement of the membrane is then scheduled when the condition is confirmed to be Cherry Eye.
Treatment for cherry eye
The cherry eye or prolapsed third eyelid was handled only by scraping the offending membrane. Veterinarians only recently understood the importance of the nictitating membrane in terms of lubrication.
Dogs and cats that had the membrane removed in the past sometimes ended up with lubrication problems and, as a result, severely dry eyes. The risk of developing kerato-conjunctivitis is severely intensified with the removal of the third eyelid.
Awareness of the significance of the nictitating membrane resulted in various repositioning strategies being developed by vets.
Repositioning surgery is typically beneficial, and there is a considerable reduction in the risk of potential prolapse. Surgically extracting the prolapsed nictitating membrane is still a prevalent method, but repositioning solutions are becoming more common.
The cat or dog’s eye will experience intense dryness following surgery to remove the infected membrane. Eye drops will often be required for the rest of the animal’s life to prevent irritation in the future and potential infection.
There is no known way to avoid the development of Cherry Eye as a congenital condition. While preventive surgery is possible for some other states, such as Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, Cherry Eye does not have such preventative steps.
Commonly influenced breeds
Young dogs tend to be the most vulnerable to Cherry Eye development. The disease can also occur in cats, but it is much rarer. Among feline species, the Burmese are by far the most common sufferer, but the condition is rare even then.
The dog species that are more likely to get the disease include:
- All Bulldog varieties
- Cavalier King
- Charles Spaniels
- Cocker Spaniels
- All Bull Terriers including the Boston Terrier
- Saint Bernards
- Basset Hounds
- Lhasa Apsos
- All Mastiff types including the Neapolitan Mastiff
- Shih Tzus
- All Poodle varieties
- The West Highland White Terrier
Although the breeds mentioned above are most at risk of having the Cherry Eye, in many other species, the condition may occur.
Some owners of pets affected by Chery Eye have created their procedures to reposition the prolapsed membrane. The treatment involves massaging the socket gently around the prolapse region before the membrane returns to its position.
Vets will also propose a method to replace the membrane in its appropriate location after recognizing the third eyelid’s value. It’s unusual for the membrane to prolapse again after this treatment.
However, the other eye is still prone. Although Cherry Eye is often more of a nuisance than a serious health problem, the longer the condition is left unaddressed, the greater the risk of severe infection.