Which Dog Breeds are Most Likely to Develop Cherry Eye?

By Langley Cornwell

When you first see a dog with cherry eye it can be disconcerting, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Clinically speaking, cherry eye is when a dog’s third eyelid develops a prolapsed gland; the condition is also known as prolapse nictitans gland. The prolapsed gland usually swells and turns bright red – which looks like a cherry perched in the inner corner of the dog’s eye, hence the name Cherry Eye.

We’ve discussed cherry eye here on the CANIDAE RPO blog before. Linda Cole’s article, What Causes Cherry Eye in Dogs, and How to Correct It, is filled with important information about this condition. While it’s possible for any dog to develop cherry eye, some breeds are more disposed than others. It seems that the shape and contour of a dog’s face is a contributing factor, and dog breeds with a short muzzle are more likely to develop this condition.

Cherry Eye in Dogs with a Short Muzzle

Because breeds with a short muzzle are predisposed to cherry eye, the condition seems to be common in young English Bulldogs, Boxers, Shar-Peis, Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Bull Terriers, French Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Pekingese and Lhasa Apso, to name a few. While the condition can happen at any age, it usually occurs in dogs before the age of two years, and can be in a single eye or both eyes when initially presented.

Other Dog Breeds

Cherry eye is common in short muzzled dogs and also quite common in small, toy and teacup dog breeds. According to the veterinarian community, any dog breed can develop the condition. In addition to the breeds listed above, the condition also shows up frequently in Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, Neapolitan Mastiffs, Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Poodles.

Genetics

Cherry eye is most often connected with a congenital weakness of the gland’s attachment in the dog’s eye. While the genetics are intricate, most veterinarians and specialists believe that cherry eye is hereditary. Even so, it can also develop in any dog as a result of eye or head trauma. As an example, when a puppy tries to run outside through a plate-glass window and hits his head hard on the glass, cherry eye may occur. The problem may also happen to an adult dog as the result of an allergic reaction.

Breeding a Dog with Cherry Eye

If a dog has a case of cherry eye that calls for surgery, experts advise against breeding the dog. The reasoning is that whatever the physical conditions are that caused the cherry eye (too much flesh behind the eyelids, loose eyelid skin, etc.) those characteristics will possibly be passed on to the following generation.

On the other hand, if a dog gets a cherry eye as a result of eye or head trauma, or the result of an allergic reaction, he or she can be bred without a problem. In that case, the condition is the result of a specific event and not a genetic issue.

Fortunately, cherry eye isn’t a life threatening condition. In fact, it usually isn’t even painful for dogs and is sometimes thought of as a cosmetic condition. However, because the prolapsed gland is no longer seated in its normal position, cherry eye can cause some issues for your pet. When you first notice anything unusual around your pet’s eye area, please consult your veterinarian.

Top photo by Chrishyson90
Bottom photo by stephlaughlin

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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