Cats and dogs, along with many other mammals, have third eyelids that are located inside their lower eyelids. These third eyelids are known as nictitating membranes, and when they prolapse they cause a medical condition that is commonly referred to as “cherry eye”. While this condition is not usually dangerous to the animal, it can definitely be highly uncomfortable. It can also lead to serious secondary problems if left untreated and unresolved, because the exposed third eyelid gland is out of place and contacted by environmental elements that it is not designed to handle. This can result in inflammation, irritation and even infection. Fortunately, cherry eye repair can help to resolve these issues.
How to Handle Cherry Eye
In treating your pet’s cherry eye condition, the veterinarian is attempting to:
- Return the third eyelid to normal function and appearance.
- Reduce the abnormal discharge coming out of the affected eye or eyes.
- Minimize any irritation or injury that can occur to corneal or conjunctival tissues.
- Preserve the normal tear production of the third eyelid gland.
- Reduce the risk of any uncomfortable and potentially dangerous secondary bacterial infections.
- Reduce or eliminate discomfort.
For some time, cherry eye was treated through the removal of the prolapsed third eyelid. Unfortunately, this removal means the removal of the animal’s source of natural tear production, which means they can then suffer from severe dry eye and a variety of associated complications. The outcome of third eyelid removal is that pet owners will then have to apply moisturizing eye drops several times a day–for the rest of the pet’s life–in order to protect against dryness, irritation and possible infection.
Today, there are several different ways to treat cherry eye without removing the prolapsed third eyelid and creating additional issues and problems: topical antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and surgery. That said, topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs do not usually cure cherry eye conditions–unless the condition is very minor and the eyelid is more swollen than prolapsed. These treatments are best used to help reduce inflammation and either prevent or resolve the secondary infections that often occur as a result of the condition. In most cases, however, your veterinarian will recommend surgery in order to fully repair the condition by repositioning the prolapsed third eyelid.
While surgical repositioning of the prolapsed third eyelid is the preferred treatment for cherry eye, the exact technique that is used will vary depend upon each pet’s specific situation, the ease of a specific technique, the potential effect of a specific technique on future tear production, the desired cosmetic results and the chances of a future re-prolapse. Obviously, the veterinarian will want to pursue the technique that will bring about the most beneficial results for the pet. Fortunately, all repositioning techniques tend to result in an acceptable outcome, with a low chance of future re-prolapse, when they are performed properly.
There are some instances where a pet has cherry eye in a single eye, rather than in both. Though it may seem obvious, it bears stating that successful surgical correction of an affected eye does not eliminate or even reduce the risk of cherry eye developing in the other eye. Unfortunately, there are no known and proven medical or surgical procedures that can prevent cherry eye from developing. It often happens that pets undergo separate surgeries in order to correct cherry eye first in one eye, and then some time later to correct cherry eye in the other eye.
What to Expect After Cherry Eye Repair
In most cases, surgery to correct cherry eye is successful in repositioning the third eye permanently. There are some instances of re-prolapse, but these are rare. After surgery, the affected eyes tend to return to full and normal function rather rapidly.
For more information about cherry eye and cherry eye repair, contact La Crosse.