Why Do Bulldogs Get Cherry Eye?

Bulldogs have their own share of health problems – one of which is the cherry eye. This condition is uncomfortable and could lead to other infections if not treated right away. But the question is this: why do Bulldogs get cherry eye? Basically, the cherry eye is due to the protrusion of the canine’s third eyelid. Why it happens and how to treat it are discussed below.

What is a cherry eye in dogs?

why do Bulldogs get cherry eye
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Cherry or prolapsed nictitating membrane is a condition that could affect all dogs, especially Bulldogs.

Dogs have a third eyelid, which protects their eyes from foreign matter. It also keeps their eyeballs well lubricated. Humans also have remnants of a third eyelid, which is the small pink membrane on the corner of our eyes. However, it has since become a vestigial body part through evolution.

In dogs, the third eyelid or the pink fleshy part at the corner of your dog’s eyes can become enlarged. As the membrane swells, it protrudes out of the eyes like small cherries, thus the name of the condition.

In the normal state, your dog’s third eyelid is flat and not easily seen. It houses the tear glands of your canine so that any abnormalities may cause excessive tearing or potential problems on the tear ducts.

The only consolation is that cherry isn’t extremely painful. However, it can get itchy, which may force your dog to paw or rub it on surfaces. This is something you need to avoid, as scratching will trigger infections and further irritations.


Signs that a Bulldog has cherry eye

Cherry eye in Bulldogs is easy to spot. You just have to check for the following signs:

  • Bulging pink membrane on the corner of the eye
  • Difficulty closing the eyes
  • Excessive tearing (in some cases)
  • Rubbing or pawing the affected eye

Most of the time, cherry eye affects both eyes. If you notice any abnormal growth in your dog’s eyes, it’s best to bring the canine to the vet. This way, the cherry eye will be diagnosed and treated early. It will also save your dog from discomfort.

Whatever eye irritation your dog is exhibiting, it’s always best to have a proactive approach. You’ll thank yourself for the money you saved from vet bills.


Why do Bulldogs get cherry eye?

There are many potential causes of cherry eye in dogs. The following are some of the most commonly observed among Bulldogs:

1. Breed

why do Bulldogs get cherry eye

Flat-nosed or brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs are observed to be prone to the cherry eye. Other at-risk breeds include Cocker Spaniel, Pekingese, Shar-Pei, Boston Terrier, and Rottweilers.

Aside from that, cherry eye is more common on dogs that are two years old or younger. Still, older canines can also develop cherry eye at any point in their lives.


2. Weakening of the fibrous gland attachment

Another possible reason for your Bulldog’s cherry eye is its weakened gland’s fibrous attachment. This attachment anchors the third eyelid to the lower rim of the eyes. When this weakens, it allows the third eyelid to prolapse or protrude away from its original position.

There’s no clear reason why this attachment weakens. Still, experts suggest that it could be genetic, developed, or triggered by injuries.


3. Lacrimal duct obstruction

Lacrimal duct obstruction is another condition observed in Bulldogs, which can also lead to the development of the cherry eye. As the ducts get blocked, it will swell and push the third eyelid outward. Aside from the protruding eyelid, lacrimal duct obstruction will also trigger excessive tearing.

There are many possible causes for lacrimal duct obstruction. It can be an infection, foreign matter, or genetic defect. Whatever the cause is, it’s important to treat this condition right away to save the dog from potential infections and further discomfort.


4. Head trauma                        

Head trauma can also increase your Bulldog’s risk of developing cherry eye. It’s possible that the trauma weakened the fibrous attachment of the third eyelid. Also, excessive pressure around the eyes may push the third eyelid outward.

It’s important to get your dog examined in the vet’s clinic after a major fall or accident that affected the head area. Whether it will cause cherry eye or not, head trauma is dangerous and must be treated accordingly.


5. Entropion

Entropion is a condition that causes a dog’s lower eyelids to roll inward. With this, the eyelashes scrape the cornea, and the third eyelid becomes more exposed.

Over time, an untreated case of entropion can also develop cherry eye due to secondary infections. It will also cause unbearable pain to your Bulldog as the cornea develops ulcers from the eyelash contact.

Most cases of entropion are treated through surgery. And if your Bulldog also developed cherry eye, the vet will treat both conditions. Just note that vets often conduct entropion surgery in two separate procedures. This is to prevent overcorrection.


6. Idiopathic

Lastly, the cause of a Bulldog’s cherry eye can be idiopathic. This means that there’s no apparent health problem or established cause that triggered the condition. Many dogs that suffered from cherry eye have these findings, especially flat-nosed breeds.

Despite not knowing what the cause is, idiopathic cherry eye can be treated just the same. What matters is you bring your dog to the vet for proper diagnosis and medication.


How is a cherry eye in dogs diagnosed?

Cherry eye is very obvious on the naked eye once the third eyelid has swollen. In advanced cases, the cherry eye has caused irritations and infections due to excessive tearing. By this time, your Bulldog has an eye discharge that indicates a serious condition.

Once you noticed that there’s a bulging growth on the corner of your Bulldog’s eyes, you must set an appointment with the vet.


Treatment for cherry eye in dogs

Treatment for cherry eye in Bulldog is usually surgical with the goal of placing the third eyelid back to its place. Take note that it’s not advisable to have the eyelid removed because it contains your dog’s tear duct.

Instead, the veterinarian will create an incision at the soft tissue found at the back of the third eyelid. After that, the glands will be placed inside the pocket created with the incision. To hold it in place, the vet will use dissolvable sutures.

Take note that this procedure is conducted with general anesthesia. As a brachycephalic breed, proper caution is observed when anesthetizing a Bulldog. This is to prevent breathing issues associated with anesthesia.

On the other hand, there are cases of the cherry eye that resolves on its own. These are mild cases that are usually caused by minor infections. As the infection clears up, the swelling of the third eyelid subsides.

Aside from that, some pet owners suggest massaging the cherry eye back to its place. Others attempt to push it back in.

While there are pet owners that report success, I don’t recommend doing so without the guidance of a veterinarian. The last thing you want is a blind dog or a serious eye injury due to your forceful attempt to fix the cherry eye.

Aside from that, never try to self-medicate your dog with human eye drops or saline solutions. The most likely result of these DIY remedies is further irritation. Instead of giving your dog comfort, you’re just making the condition worse.


Why immediate treatment is necessary

As mentioned, cherry eye is rarely an emergency. However, letting your dog suffer from the problem can have long-term complications.

As the third eyelid continues to swell, it will start to restrict proper blood circulation to your dog’s eyes. This will expose your dog to a greater risk of other eye problems.

Aside from that, your dog will paw and rub the cherry eye to ease the discomfort. This will lead to abrasions, wounds, and infections. In short, putting off the treatment will open Pandora’s box of other health problems. And if you haven’t realized it yet, this also translates to hefty vet bills.


How to prevent cherry eye in dogs

There’s no way to prevent cherry eye among dogs. Even if your Bulldog is perfectly healthy, it can still develop an eye problem, especially before the age of two.

The best you can do is to be observant, so you’ll see if there are any changes in your dog’s eyes before it becomes a big problem.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does it cost to fix a cherry eye on a Bulldog?

A: Surgical correction for cherry eye in Bulldogs will set you back for about $800. This covers both affected eyes as well as other examinations and medications. However, the cost largely varies depending on the vet clinic where you’re taking your dog.

Q: Can a dog live with a cherry eye?

A Cherry eye isn’t considered an emergency that’s why some dogs can live with it for a while without suffering major discomfort. However, cherry eye can become worse the longer you put off the treatment. It’s best to get pet insurance, so you have to shoulder the entire cost.

Q: Can cherry eye kill a dog?

A: Cherry eye is rarely life-threatening or painful. Still, it doesn’t mean you won’t seek veterinary care for your affected dog. While this condition isn’t an emergency, it still impacts your dog’s quality of life negatively. Also, it will save you more money from vet bills if you’ll take a proactive approach to your dog’s health problems.

Q: Does cherry eye in dogs happen suddenly?

A: Cherry eye among Bulldogs can progress quickly, which can happen in a span of a few days. Still, the progression of the problem depends on what caused it in the first place. But whatever it is, veterinary care is still the best solution to the problem.

Q: How does it take for the cherry eye to heal?

A: It may take up to 10 days to see changes on your dog’s cherry eye if the vet prescribed a topical medication. However, full recovery can be expected in a week or two if a surgical procedure was conducted.


Final words

Why do Bulldogs get cherry eye? There are many possible causes, but one thing is for sure: your Bulldog needs proper vet care to fix the problem. Avoid trying DIY fixes like popping the glands back to their place or using human eye drops. Instead, you should bring your dog to the vet’s clinic as soon as you notice the presence of cherry eye.