Q My 8-month-old female cocker spaniel is having a problem. A swollen red sore pops up on the inside of her right eye. She has never been injured but rubs the eye occasionally. My vet examined her and put the mass back in place. He told me that it may happen again and would have to be removed by surgery. Is there something else that can be done? Why does this happen?
--Mrs. Jon Roberts,
A What you described is commonly called "cherry eye" and is enlarged glandular tissue from behind the third eyelid (nictitating membrane). It occurs primarily in small-breed dogs, especially in beagles and cocker spaniels, and may be from a congenital defect in the development of the connective tissue that supports the gland. The glandular tissue is involved in normal tear production.
In most cases, just one eye is affected, but occasionally the gland in the other eye may enlarge at the same time or after repair of the first eye. Sometimes treatment with corticosteroid injections and topical eye medication after replacing the gland in its normal position will reduce or eliminate the problem if it is caught early enough. However, most cases tend to recur and require partial surgical removal of the gland. This must be done carefully because any great reduction in tear production can lead to a drying of the cornea and damage to the eye. After surgery, the dog may need to be treated with a form of artificial tears to keep the eye moist.