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Cherry eye in dogs: symptoms and treatment

Collette Shackleton
Written by  Collette Shackleton
Saarrah Mussa
Reviewed by  Saarrah Mussa
5 min read
Updated: 07 May 2024

Are you concerned that your dog may have cherry eye? For dogs, this can be a serious issue, so having the right pet insurance in place is crucial to help cover the cost of treating cherry eye.

Have your dog's eyes recently turned redder and puffier than usual? This could be a sign of cherry eye, a common eye condition seen in many dog breeds.

Cherry eye may not look serious to begin with, but if left untreated, it can cause more severe eye problems for your canine companion further down the line.

In this guide, we'll be sharing everything you need to know about cherry eye, including if the condition is covered by your pet insurance, and early signs to watch out for.

What is cherry eye?

Cherry eye is a condition where a dog's third eyelid (yes, you read that correctly), which can't be seen, develops a tissue defect and the tear gland prolapses and bulges, which gives the eye a read, irritated appearance.

Cherry eye can occur in just one eye or both, and often looks much worse than it actually is in the early stages. However, it's important to get your dog seen to by a vet as soon as possible, as it can cause more eye-related issues for your dog if you don't treat it sooner rather than later.

cherry eye in dogs

What causes cherry eye in dogs?

Vets aren't 100% sure what causes cherry eye, but certain breeds do have weaker eyelid glands. These are crucial to keeping the eyes moist and healthy, which is why breeds who have weaker glands are more susceptible to getting cherry eye.

What breeds are more likely to get cherry eye?

Dog breeds that are more likely to catch cherry eye include:

  • Bassett Hounds

  • Beagles

  • Bulldogs (British and French)

  • Cocker spaniels

  • Great Danes

  • Pugs

  • Rottweilers

  • Shih tzus

It's important to note that any dog that can catch cherry eye, so it's a good idea to check your pet insurance provider covers cherry eye before you commit to a policy.

If you have more than one dog, you could consider multi pet insurance, which can help you save money insuring your dogs all on one policy.

What is the cost of treating my dog's cherry eye?

Most vets will recommend corrective surgery to treat cherry eye. This involves them repositioning the third eyelid and tear gland to prevent the bulge, which will help your pet's eye return back to its original appearance.

The Animal Trust states that the cost of cherry eye surgery is £389 on their website, but this will vary and can be anywhere between £300-£1,500 depending on your vet and whether you require an emergency appointment or not.

Does pet insurance cover cherry eye?

Some pet insurance providers will cover the cost of cherry eye surgery, providing it's not a pre-existing condition when you take cover out for your dog.

If your dog has suffered with cherry eye in one eye before you took out insurance, then got it in their other eye, some insurers may refuse to insure you on the grounds of it being a bilateral issue.

Other insurers may charge extra for cherry eye and similar conditions, while others may exclude cover for cherry eye altogether, as they see it as a hereditary condition.

If you have a dog breed prone to cherry eye, this may also limit the number of pet insurance providers who are willing to offer you dog insurance.

The type of pet insurance you purchase will also make a difference. For example, an accident only will not cover you for issues like cherry eye, but a lifetime pet insurance policy will be more likely to offer coverage for conditions like this.

It's recommended you insure your dog as soon as you bring them home as a puppy or adopt one at any age, and it's crucial you read through any policy documents to check for exclusions before you take out any type of pet insurance.

For more information, read our guide about what pet insurance covers.

Can cherry eye be prevented in dogs?

While we know certain breeds are prone to cherry eye, unfortunately, there is no way to prevent it, as it's caused by genetically weak tissue. The good news, though, is that the gland typically goes back to functioning normally within a couple of weeks of your dog having surgery.

You can also protect your dog by keeping them healthy with diet, exercise, and rest, and try to avoid excess dust, any debris, water, and wind exposure around their eyes.

As it is genetic problem, you should avoid breeding any dog that has suffered with cherry eye, even if they have had corrective surgery.

What are the symptoms of cherry eye to look out for in dogs?

In addition to the obvious signs of cherry eye, such as red and aggravated appearance of the eye, other signs to look out for in your dog include:

  • A red swollen lump in the corner of the eye

  • Dry, irritated eyes from the lack of lubrication

  • Sometimes discharge from the eye

  • Your dog pawing at their eye

  • Severe squinting

If you notice any of the signs, it's important to contact your vet and book an appointment for them to review your dog.

Is cherry eye painful for dogs?

While it might look uncomfortable, cherry eye isn't that painful in the first stages of the infection. It's important to take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice any symptoms of cherry eye, though, as the longer it is left untreated, the more painful it can become for dogs.

Are there home remedies for treating cherry eye?

Veterinarians do not recommend attempting to treat cherry eye yourself at home, as you may irritate the infection and make it worse.

There may be instances where you can treat the infection and inflammation with vet-prescribed eye drops and anti-inflammatory medications if you catch it early enough, but in most cases, surgery is required to fully correct the eye.

What happens if cherry eye is left untreated?

The longer cherry eye is left untreated, the more irritated the gland and eyelid becomes, which may lead to issues such as conjunctivitis and increased discharge. Your dog might also rub at their eye more and cause further damage, bleeding, or much worse infection.

Why compare pet insurance with MoneySuperMarket?

At MoneySuperMarket, we take the guesswork out of choosing the right pet insurance for your financial circumstances, and show you a range of options with levels of cover you feel comfortable with from leading UK providers.

Explore your options, compare policies, and choose the insurance that gives you and your dog the security you both deserve.

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