What Is Cherry Eye and How Much Does Treating It Cost?

Pet Care


September 16, 2021

Few things are more distressing as a pet owner than seeing something is wrong with your pet. When your pet is suffering through a health condition, you can see it in their eyes – sometimes literally.

Such is the case with cherry eye, a condition where a large pinkish-red mass can appear in your dog’s eye. But what is cherry eye, what’s behind it, how can you tell if your dog has it, and just as importantly, what does cherry eye surgery cost?

Cherry Eye 101

In addition to their upper and lower eyelid, dogs have a third eyelid, known as their nictitating membrane, which slides across their eyes. These are meant to protect their eyes and keep them nice and moist.

“Cherry eye” occurs when their lacrimal gland, which is found in a corner of this third eyelid, slips out and swells up, and looks pinkish-red – hence the name.

This is known as a prolapsed gland, and it needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

For one thing, cherry eye can lead to your dog’s eyes becoming dry or irritated since the lacrimal gland and nictitating membrane are no longer in their proper place to protect them and keep them moist.

Additionally, the displacement itself can cause irritation. Cherry eye can affect one or both of your dog’s eyes, and can do so at the same time or at different times.

Causes of Cherry Eye

The lacrimal gland is usually held in place by a ligament attaching it to the dog’s eye socket. If this ligament is weakened or otherwise dislodged, it can cause cherry eye. Some breeds have weak ligament attachments, making them more susceptible to cherry eye, such as:

  • British and French Bulldogs
  • Beagles
  • Bloodhounds
  • Boston Terrier
  • Chinese Shar-pei
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Great Danes
  • Lhasa Apsos
  • Mastiffs
  • Pekingese
  • Pugs
  • Shih Tzus

If you have a dog that is a member of one of these breeds, you’ll want to take extra care to be on the lookout for cherry eye. Consult your vet immediately if you see a large pinkish-red bump in the corner of your dog’s eye, which may be a sign of their glands having slipped out of place. The sooner you catch cherry eye, the better.

However, sadly there isn’t much you can do to prevent cherry eye, even if you know your dog’s breed is especially susceptible to it. Ligaments slip, and you can’t prevent that, let alone in your dog’s eye.

The best defense you have against the worst elements of cherry eye is vigilance. Know what to look for, if your dog is especially susceptible, and keep an eye out.

Eye Drops for Cherry Eye

To ensure that your dog’s eyes don’t dry out while you are treating the root cause of cherry eye, it is advisable that you give your dog some eye drops. That said, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting eye drops specially made for dogs and not something over the counter for humans. Even so, these don’t tend to be much more expensive.

You’ll also want to take care to apply the eye drops the right way.

Cherry Eye Surgery

There are a couple different surgical options available for treating cherry eye. One of the most common in the UK is called the “mucosal pocket technique” and is done by creating a small pocket in and around the soft tissue area near the third eyelid and placing the gland into it before stitching everything back up. In the United States, surgical techniques often involve trying to put the gland back in place.

Costs for Cherry Eye

That said, to treat cherry eye permanently, your dog will likely need surgery. In the past, veterinary surgeons would often remove the lacrimal gland, but this has been seen to be less effective and more costly in the long run. It can lead to much less tear volume being produced and thus long-term consequences for your dog’s eyes, which will in turn be more costly to fix.

The surgery itself can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 in the United States and close to £400 in the UK.

However, costs can climb as high as $800 to $1,000. Monthly medical treatment for cherry eye can cost $25 to $75.

Schedule a Consultation

One of the best things you can do to make sure that your dog doesn’t suffer the worst of cherry eye is to schedule a visit to your vet. The sooner you visit them, the sooner you can get the eye drops or surgery your dog needs. How much this costs depends on where you live and what kind of coverage you have.

One thing that can make the process of treating cherry eye less expensive is having pet insurance. That said, this can be tricky, as it may be considered a pre-existing condition or a hereditary one, both of which can pose additional obstacles for gaining coverage. Still, given that surgery can cost hundreds of dollars as a starting point, it’s better to have insurance.

Post-Surgery Care

Even if you get your dog the necessary surgery, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your dog afterward to ensure that it recovers properly. Your vet surgeon will likely give you a buster collar, and if they don’t, you’ll need to acquire one yourself. These are specially designed collars that prevent dogs from rubbing or scratching their eyes so as to prevent them from reaggravating their eyelids.

You’ll want to avoid making your dog run or jump or otherwise engaging in activities during playtime or at other times that can raise pressure on its eyes. That’s likely to be a bummer for your dog as well as you, so try and comfort your dog and give it extra attention – it’s only for a little while.


Even if your dog developed cherry eye in one eye and not the other, you’ll still want to keep an eye on that eye as well. Remember – cherry eye is more common in certain breeds and can run in the family. As such, if a dog has had cherry eye in one eye, or its parents or siblings had it, its other eye may be at risk as well.

No one wants to see their dog suffer through dry eye and vision issues. Unfortunately, cherry eye tends to run in the family and is common to some dog breeds, which doesn’t leave a lot of ways to prevent it. Thankfully, it is typically easy to spot, which can allow you to nip it in the bud.

Surgical options typically cost a few hundred dollars or pounds, so be sure to speak with your vet and pet insurance provider to see what options are out there and which are most affordable and effective.