Cherry eye is prolapse of the third eyelid. Dogs have an extra eyelid compared to humans – it helps protect their eye and keep it moist. The third eyelid also makes 60-70% of the tears in the eye.
People don’t like the look of cherry eye – and they worry that their pup can’t see around it. Because it provides the majority of the tears, it really is not advised to remove it. The ideal surgery is to place the prolapsed lid back in place. Unfortunately, this surgery has a 30-40% failure rate (it pops back out again). Dogs who have their third lid removed to “treat” the condition are at risk of dry eye in that eye; dry eye can lead to permanent loss of the eyeball if it goes untreated.
So, what to do? Some people find once they get used to the prolapsed eyelid, it’s not such a big deal, they just have to explain to friends. Neurologically, one wonders why this happens in the first place? Perhaps it’s due to weak nerve stimulation in a cute smushed up face. Our Chinese colleagues would say it’s due to weak jing – essence, or a genetic predisposition. Regardless, it is a genetic trait that is passed on in bulldogs and similar breeds.