Unlike humans, dogs are blessed with three eyelids for
each eye; upper, lower and third eyelid or nictitans membrane.
The latter is invisible in normal circumstances and is located
in the medial corner of the eye. It contains a prominent
tear gland that aids in the production of tears. When this
gland protrudes, it becomes irritated and appears swollen
and red, like a small fruit hence the name cherry
Tilly, a young Labrador, was presented with this problem.
Although the diagnosis is usually made by the very typical
appearance, as was in Tillys case, it can sometimes
require further investigation to differentiate from tumours
or foreign bodies. If left untreated, this unsightly problem
develops into dry eye, (keratoconjunctivitis sicca), a severe
and debilitating condition in which the patient lacks tear
production and needs life long treatment.
In order to avoid any serious complications Tilly was treated
with a commonly used surgical procedure, the 'pocket technique'.
A pocket is created deep in the third eyelid in which the
prolapsed gland is fixed with tiny stitches. Unfortunately,
recurrence can be a problem as the delicate stitches can
break down before healing is completed. Development of cherry
eye in the second eye can occur as well. In these circumstances
further surgery is inevitable.
Sadly, despite our best efforts 20% of the patients can
still go on to develop dry eye. Nonetheless, for most dogs,
surgery is curative and it prevents lifelong eye treatment.
Fortunately for Tilly, the surgery so far has been successful.
She is one of the lucky ones for whom life is just
a bowl of cherries!