Cherry Eye, Everything You Need to Know

N.B This post contains links that will redirect you to my Amazon Affiliate Program.

What is Cherry Eye?

The best way to describe the cherry eye syndrome is by seeing the third eyelid inside the eye itself.  This problem occurs mostly in younger dogs up to two years old. 

This third eyelid’s role, which under normal conditions is invisible, is to produce tears and nutrients that protect your dog’s eyes. Cherry eye occurs when your dog’s gland that produces tears, protrudes and prolapses.

Your veterinarian will know this condition under the name of Nictitans Gland Prolapse, resulting in a pinkish-red lump that will appear in the corner of their eyes. 

The color of this third eyelid being blood-red or pink. Hence the reason we call this syndrome cherry eye. Appearing from the nasal area of the eye you will observe what appears to be another eyelid.

The first impression when seeing your Lhasa Apso with a cherry eye will scare you. You’re going to be thinking is this cancer or something terrible. Cherry eye must be treated, but it is far from being life-threatening for your pet. Now you feel reassured let’s continue to learn more about this common problem Lhasa Apsos can encounter during their lives.

I would like to say I am fortunate that my own Lhasa, Lucky, has never had this problem.
Lucky with perfect eyes

What Causes Cherry Eye?

As a result of the retinaculum, the part that keeps the gland in place, becoming defective for some reason the Nictitans Gland will prolapse and protrude into the corner of the eye.

This gland which washes the eye constantly becomes exposed more, thereby becoming dryer and inflamed, causing that reddish-pink flesh in the corner of the eye. 

This happens due to the drying of the third eye tissue, creating other symptoms that can lead to infection and further complications. 

Early Stage Symptoms

Even before you see that ugly mass in the corner of your pet’s eye you may notice some unusual signs in your Lhasa. The most common sign is an abundance of tear production or lack of tear production. Is your Lhasa becoming increasingly moist around the eyes? An overproduction of tears will leave brown stains on their fur, from the eye running onto the muzzle. 

If you notice your dog rubbing or trying to scratch their eyes this should alert you to the first signs of cherry eye. I recommend a visit to your veterinarian before the problem becomes worse. 

Is Cherry Eye Hereditary?

There is no proof of cherry eye being hereditary. 

Veterinarians will advise you not to breed your Lhasa if it has had cherry eye. Even though the problem may have been treated in your Lhasa, and they have been given the all-clear they still might have a recessive gene. Therefore it is highly possible that a pup from the litter may have a gene passed forward. Increasing the chances of it developing cherry eye later.

Is Cherry Eye Painful?

Looking at that unsightly third eyelid, which has prolapsed, in the corner of the eye. We would be forgiven thinking it is very painful.

That red lump of flesh does look painful, but it is more irritating for them as the eye will not be receiving enough irrigation and will become dry.

How To Prevent Cherry Eye

Cherry eye is a problem that young dogs up to two years seem to be prone to getting. There is no way to prevent your pup from getting this eye disorder. The exact causes that result in Cherry eye are not fully known, thereby making prevention almost impossible.

One way to help irradicate this eye problem is to make sure you do not breed any Lhasa that has had a previous third eyelid prolapse. Cherry eye can be passed onto future pups by breeding previously affected adults.
Lucky 2 Years Old

Can It Heal By Itself?

This is possible in some rare cases. If you have spotted your Lhasa in time then you could try a gentle eye massage, softly massaging the affected eye. Steroids along with Antibiotics (check the latest prices on Amazon by clicking on Antibiotics, or Steroids, (these links are affiliate links to my Amazon Affiliate program) may be combined with the massage, and help correct the Cherry eye. Always consult your veterinarian for their advice.

How Do You Treat Cherry Eye?

If massage has not corrected this then the only alternative is surgery. The ultimate solution has to be undertaken. The sooner the better. The veterinarian will perform an operation where they will reattach the third eyelid in its original position.

Their aim is to correct this long term to prevent any future eye inflammation and infection. A few weeks after the intervention the third eyelid with its tear gland will return to normal.

There are a few cases where there might be a relapse and you will need to undertake a second operation. Do be aware that if your pet has had cherry eye in one eye it is very probable that the second eye will get it too.

What Are The Costs Of Surgery?

Different countries will practice varying tariffs. Loving your Lhasa means that you will have a good assurance cover to help meet these fees. To give you some idea I have found these costs from 

  • UK       £340
  • USA     $300 / $800
  • CAN     $300 / $900
  • AUS     $300

These are fees that can easily double or triple depending on the expertise required. Do some research in your region before choosing your veterinarian. 

Is Surgery Necessary?

If you have tried massaging and applying ointments and there were no positive results then yes surgery is necessary. There are two types of surgery available.

The first option is called the pocket technique. Your veterinarian will make two small cuts either side, With the tear gland free the veterinarian will replace it into its original position, then securing it in place with stitches.

The second possible surgery, if the pocket technique failed, will be to completely remove the tear gland. Removing the tear gland will obviously mean less irrigation for the eye and you will need to administer eye drops to prevent dry eye or any further infections.

Post Operation

Now that you have your Lhasa at home you will need to care for them. They are going to want to scratch their eye after the operation, I strongly advise, if your veterinarian has not provided one, to purchase a cone that can be placed on their head to protect their eyes. 

I found these two on Amazon, (clicking on them will take you to my affiliate link) a PINK one and a BLUE one

They are lightweight and have a nice soft collar and rim. Check out the prices on Amazon, I think they look so much nicer than those your veterinarian supplies.

As the eye recovers there might be some pus leaking, this will cause crusts to form on the hair near the eye, this will need to be removed. Daily wiping with some eye wipes to moisten the eye will keep this to a minimum. If however there are crusts in the hair near the eye you will need to gently comb them out. I found this Small Eye Combe on Amazon, (clicking on the link takes you to my Amazon Affiliate program if you purchase one I receive a small commission)  

Eye wipes are necessary and to save you time, I found these Eye Wipes, on Amazon, (clicking on the Eye Wipes link will take you to my Amazon affiliate program where if you purchase anything I will receive a small commission)
Clean stain free eyes


If you suspect your Lhasa of having cherry eye then you should immediately consult your veterinarian. Taking the appropriate steps cherry eye can be dealt with easily with the help of your veterinarian. Although the cherry eye is not life-threatening you should not let it go untreated.

Always place a cone on your Lhasa to prevent them from scratching post-operative. Use eye wipes, administer creams or eye drops to help in the recovery stage. 

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