Cherry Eye in French Bulldogs

If your Frenchie has cherry eye, there's no mistaking it. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cherry eye.


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Cherry Eye in French Bulldogs

There’s no arguing – cherry eye is a freaky condition, however, it’s far from serious as long as you treat it quickly.

Cherry eye gets its name from the red, inflamed mass that protrudes from the eye. You really can’t miss it.

What is it?

Did you know all dogs have a “third eyelid”? It also goes by the fancy name of the nictitating membrane.

You’ve probably noticed it when your Frenchie was sleeping; it’s a red membrane in the eye that sometimes makes it look like their eyes are rolling back in his head. You might also be able to spot it after surgery when they’re recovering from the anesthesia.

This nictitating membrane serves to protect the eye from debris, fight off infection, and produce 40% of tears for the eye.

Cherry eye is a health disorder that occurs when the tear gland of this third eyelid pops out of position. It is more common in younger dogs – generally less than 2 years old – but can occur at any age.

Symptoms of Cherry Eye in French Bulldogs

When it comes to the symptoms of cherry eye, there’s really no mistaking it.

French Bulldog with Cherry Eye
French Bulldog with Cherry Eye

If your Frenchie’s eye looks anything like the picture above, you should definitely get it checked out by your vet as soon as possible. The earlier you catch the cherry eye, the better the prognosis.

Look for

  • Swollen, red mass protruding from the eye (also called a “cherry pit”)
  • Drainage from the eye (overproduction of tears)
  • Dry eyes (underproduction of tears)
  • Impaired vision
  • Scratching or rubbing at their eye
  • Squinting

If you notice your Frenchie rubbing and scratching their eye a lot, it could be because they’re in pain or discomfort. You should see a vet ASAP if you notice this.

Causes of Cherry Eye in French Bulldogs

Veterinarians aren’t 100% sure what causes cherry eye in the first place, but we have somewhat of an idea.

First of all, it’s most likely genetic and can be passed down from parents to puppies.

We also know that there are tissue fibers that hold the third eyelid’s gland in place to the lower rim of the eye.

When these fibers are weakened due to a genetics, it can lead to the gland popping out of place. This causes the unmistakable “cherry eye” appearance.

Breed is a factor

There are some breeds that have a higher genetic predisposition to this tissue fiber weakness.

Unfortunately, Frenchies are one of many breeds that are much more susceptible to developing cherry eye than your average dog.

Age is also a factor

Cherry eye is much more common in younger French Bulldogs, however, it can happen at any point in your Frenchie’s lifetime.

The most common age for a Frenchie to develop cherry eye is between 3 months and 2 years old.

If your Frenchie is older than 2 years, I wouldn’t worry too much about them getting cherry eye, but you’ll know it when you see it.

Complications of Untreated Cherry Eye

Left untreated, cherry eye may cause damage to the eye or third eyelid gland which may result in chronic dry eye and irritation. Severe cases of dry eye may also seriously impair your Frenchie’s vision.

By seeking treatment quickly, and not waiting for the cherry eye to go away on its own, you can very much minimize damage to the eye (if any).

List of complications

  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Blood flow to the third eyelid’s gland can become restricted
  • The longer it’s left untreated, more inflammation and swelling will develop
  • Surgery may be your only treatment option. If you catch cherry eye early, there’s a chance surgery won’t be necessary.

Treatment of Cherry Eye in French Bulldogs

If you spot the unmistakable “cherry pit” on your Frenchie’s eye, it’s so so so important that you take them to the vet ASAP.

Why you may ask?

The earlier you catch the cherry eye, the far better the prognosis will be… you can minimize any damage to the eye, prevent any pain/discomfort, and treatment will be much easier.

Treatment Options

When it comes to treating cherry eye, there are typically two types of treatments: surgical and non-surgical.

Non-Surgical

Believe it or not, sometimes cherry eye can simply go away on its own.

Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the case. Please don’t use that as a reason to put off taking your Frenchie to the vet, as they’re the only ones who will be able to tell you if surgery is necessary.

If your vet determines that surgery isn’t immediately required, and the cherry eye doesn’t just go away with time, your vet is likely to prescribe topical antibiotics, and/or corticosteroid anti-inflammatory eye drops.

If the cherry eye is caught early enough, these might be enough to do the trick.

1. Anti-Inflammatory Eye Drops

These eye drops reduce swelling and inflammation, which will help to relieve any pain or discomfort your Frenchie could be experiencing.

2. Topical Antibiotic Eye Medication

Topical antibiotics are typically prescribed when there’s a lot of discharge in the eye.

They also protect against secondary infections.

3. Massage

In mild cases, it may be possible to slowly massage the gland back into its proper position.

Surgery

Tried all the non-surgical options, and your Frenchie’s cherry eye still won’t go away?

Tucking Method

The tucking method is the most common surgical procedure used to treat cherry eye.

This technique involves permanently placing a stitch that pulls the gland back into its original position

Imbrication Method

The imbrication method is one of the newer techniques surgeons use to treat cherry eye.

With this technique, a wedge of tissue would be removed from over the gland. This surgery is considered more difficult as it’s important to determine the correct amount of tissue that needs to be removed.

Complete removal of the affected gland

Completely removing the nictitating gland is the oldest techniques used to treat cherry eye.

It’s really far from the ideal procedure, as once the gland is removed, their eye will be unable to produce the tears needed to keep their eye moist.

Daily eyedrops are necessary after this surgery, and if you don’t use them as directed, it could lead to blindness.

This surgery really only used to be common before advancements in veterinarian medicine and technology so that now removal isn’t necessary.

When should I see my vet?

In my opinion, I’d make an appointment with my veterinarian as soon as possible.

So really, if you notice a large, red mass protruding from your Frenchie’s eye, just take them to the vet. Catching the cherry eye early makes treatment much easier as well, whereas if you waited long, surgery might be necessary.

Prognosis

As mentioned before, cherry eye is not too serious of a condition.

With prompt medical attention and the right treatment, the chances of any serious complications are slim to none.

If your veterinarian determines surgery, you can expect healing to be done in about 2 weeks.

Don’t wait for cherry eye to go away on its own; go see your vet ASAP if you notice any symptoms.


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