Cherry Eye in Boston Terriers- What Is It? How to Fix It.


can a boston terrier live with cherry eye

Did you suddenly notice a weird red swelling in the corner of your Boston’s eye?

If the swelling occurs in the lower inside corner of the eye, your Boston Terrier may have a cherry eye

What should you do next?

This complete guide to cherry eyes in Boston Terriers will review causes, symptoms, and potential treatment options for Bostons’ cherry eyes.

What Is Cherry Eye In Boston Terriers And How Can It Be Fixed?

Cherry eye is a common ophthalmological (eye) condition seen in dogs. It occurs when part of the eye tissue pops out of place.

Cherry eye occurs when a piece of eye tissue, also known as the third eyelid gland, abnormally protrudes from your Boston’s eye. 

This third eyelid gland prolapse can cause abnormal swelling in the corner of your Boston’s eye. Typically, cherry eyes will need to be treated by a veterinarian with a special surgery to replace the eye swelling.

Causes Of Cherry Eye In Boston Terriers

The cause of cherry eye is thought to be genetic. To understand how this occurs, it is first important to understand the anatomy within a Boston’s eye.

Boston Terrier Eye Anatomy

Have you ever noticed that thin layer of tissue living in the corner of a dog’s or cat’s eyes? That tissue is called the third eyelid or nictitating membrane

The third eyelid serves many useful functions to keep the eye working correctly.

Within the third eyelid, there is a gland that aids in forming tears. Tears are essential to keep the eye lubricated and aid in removing foreign substances within the eye.

The third eyelid gland is an important structure that aids in keeping your Boston’s eye healthy.

cherry eye in a boston terrier

Prolapsed Third Eyelid Gland

A cherry eye is also known as a prolapse of the third eyelid gland. When the gland within the third eyelid comes out of its normal position within the corner of the eye, it appears as a swollen, round piece of tissue.


This swollen piece of tissue can look rounded and red, slightly resembling a cherry, which is where the name originated.

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Why Does Cherry Eye Develop In Boston Terriers?

Veterinary researchers have discovered that cherry eyes develop because the connective tissues around the gland are too relaxed. With excess laxity, the gland can move out of place.

It is believed that cherry eyes have a genetic component because several dog breeds appear to be at higher risk for developing cherry eyes. Typically, a genetic abnormality leads to relaxed tissues around the third eyelid gland, which may result in cherry eyes.

Once your Boston has developed a cherry eye in one eye, there is a good chance that the other eye will become affected at some point in your Boston’s life.

What Dog Breeds Typically Get Cherry Eyes?

Cherry eye occurs most commonly in smaller breed dogs, but a few large dog breeds are also predisposed.

The Breeds That Are Most Likely To Get Cherry Eye Include:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Beagle
  • Shih Tzu
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Pekingese
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Bloodhound
  • St. Bernard
  • Bulldog
  • Mastiff
A Mastiff mixed breed dog with nictitans gland prolapse or "cherry eye" in both eyes.
A Mastiff mixed breed dog with nictitans gland prolapse or “cherry eye” in both eyes.

Is There A Certain Age Range That Cherry Eyes Develop In Boston Terriers?

Most commonly, in the veterinary clinic, most dogs I see with cherry eyes are young.

It is most common for cherry eyes to develop within your Boston Terrier’s life within the first two years. 

That being said, cherry eyes can also occur in Bostons of any age.

Want to learn about other health issues related to Boston Terriers? Here are 10 Common Health Issues In Boston’s.

Symptoms Of Cherry Eye In Boston Terriers

When the third eyelid gland pops out of place in your Boston Terrier, it may begin to swell and get inflamed and irritated.

What Are the Early Symptoms of Cherry Eyes?

The earliest cherry eye symptom is a red, rounded, smooth mass protruding from the lower inside corner of the eye. It can occur in one or both eyes.

Is Cherry Eye Painful To My Boston Terrier?

Cherry eyes are typically not painful. Although, sometimes, cherry eyes can lead to slight eye discomfort secondary to inflammation.

If the cherry eye persists for long periods of time, and the gland begins producing fewer tears, this may lead to dry eye. Dry eyes can be painful and uncomfortable.


If your Boston’s eye appears to be painful, I recommend getting the eye examined by a veterinarian quickly. Some eye conditions that cause painful eyes in Bostons can lead to permanent blindness.

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Will Cherry Eye Cause Blindness in my boston terrier?

Will Cherry Eye Cause Blindness?

Cherry eyes will not cause blindness in your Boston Terrier.

It is important to note that though cherry eyes typically do not cause blindness, there are other eye conditions that can lead to blindness in Boston Terriers. 

It is vital to have your Boson’s eye quickly examined by a veterinarian anytime you notice an abnormality.

Treatment Of Cherry Eye In Boston Terriers

The treatment of choice for cherry eyes in Bostons is surgical correction. By replacing the gland of the third eyelid surgically, there is a higher success rate and a lower risk of recurrence than other treatments.

how to treat cherry eyes in a boston terrier

How Do You Treat Cherry Eyes In Boston Terriers?

The most common and effective treatment of cherry eyes in Boston Terriers is surgical correction. Surgery is most effective when done soon after the cherry eye has developed.

There are a few different types of procedures that veterinarians may perform to repair cherry eyes.

Here are three ways a veterinarian may correct cherry eyes.

1. Morgan Pocket Technique

The Morgan pocket technique has become one of the most preferred and effective ways to treat cherry eyes in Boston Terriers.

This is the procedure I perform to repair cherry eyes. After completing this surgery, there is an extremely low chance that the cherry eye will recur (less than 10 percent). Other procedures may have up to a 50 percent recurrence rate.

This technique involves incising over the third eyelid gland, creating a small pocket to replace the gland back into, and stitching the pocket up with dissolvable stitches.

2. Tacking Procedure

Tacking the third eyelid gland in place is another type of procedure that is commonly performed by veterinarians. 

This procedure involves tacking the gland in the normal position with a stitch. This procedure has a higher recurrence rate than the pocket technique.

3. Gland Excision

Excising the gland of the third eyelid is not recommended. The third eyelid gland aids in tear production, and removing this gland can lead to chronic dry eye and discomfort.

Will Cherry Eye Go Away On Its Own?
Please say Cherry Eye will go away on its own.

Will Cherry Eye Go Away On Its Own?

Usually, cherry eyes do not go away on their own. Remember that the cause of the cherry eye is from a genetic issue causing the connective tissue to be too relaxed. Because of this, cherry eyes will typically not improve on their own.

Even if they do go away, there is a high likelihood that it will recur in the future.

Most of the cases of cherry eye I have seen in the veterinary clinic do not get better on their own. I have rarely seen a case that improves on its own.

What Is The Approximate Cost Of Fixing Cherry Eyes In My Boston Terrier?

The cost of fixing cherry eyes in Boston Terriers depends on many factors. I have seen price estimates of anywhere from $300 to $3000 depending on all of these factors. 

On average, expect to spend $500-1500 for repairing one cherry eye.

Here are four factors to consider when talking about the cost of correcting cherry eyes.

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1. Is The Surgery Being Performed By A Veterinary Ophthalmologist?

If a veterinary ophthalmologist is performing the surgery, the price will likely be higher.  This is because veterinary ophthalmologists are specialists in dog eyes. And because they are specialists, they will have more experience in performing this kind of procedure.

Some general practice veterinarians are comfortable fixing cherry eyes. In contrast, others may wish to refer your Boston to a veterinary ophthalmologist to get the best surgical outcome possible.

What Is The Approximate Cost Of Fixing Cherry Eyes In My Boston Terrier?

2. What Procedure Is Being Performed? 

Typically, the pocket technique will be more expensive than the tacking technique because it is a more intricate surgery. 

The pocket technique will also be less likely to recur in the future, which will result in lower future costs associated with the cherry eye.

I typically recommend the pocket technique even though it will be more costly.

3. Where Do You Live? 

The cost of this type of procedure will vary widely depending on your geographic location. If you live in a large city, the price will usually be higher than if you live in a rural area.

4. Does Your Boston Need One Or Two Cherry Eyes Repaired? 

Naturally, the cost of repairing both cherry eyes at the same time will be more expensive than treating one eye.

What Happens If Cherry Eye Goes Untreated?

If the cherry eye goes untreated, the eye can become inflamed and irritated.

Because the third eyelid gland is vital for tear production, the longer it stays out of place, the higher the chance that it will stop working correctly.

If the gland of the third eyelid decreases its production of tears, dry eyes can occur. Dry eyes can result in corneal ulcers, scarring, and long term issues with the eyes.

Occasionally, cherry eyes will not cause pain or irritation long-term. 

If you are unsure whether or not you should treat your Boston’s cherry eye, I recommend consulting with a veterinarian about its pros and cons.

can a boston terrier live with cherry eye

Can Boston Terriers Live With Cherry Eyes?

Yes, Boston Terriers can live with cherry eyes. Though it may be uncomfortable, cherry eyes will not decrease the life expectancy of your Boston Terrier.

Because it can be uncomfortable and can lead to worse issues, I typically recommend surgically repairing cherry eyes, especially if they are not going away within a few weeks. 

Surgery is typically extremely effective for this condition.

Are There Home Remedies To Fix Cherry Eyes In Dogs Or Should This Be Handled By A Professional?

Even though many home remedies are described on the internet to fix cherry eyes, these are typically ineffective long-term.

Many times, even after correcting the eye with home techniques such as massage or warm compresses, the cherry eye will recur.

I typically do not recommend home remedies to fix cherry eyes because sometimes you can do more harm than good. 

It is always good to first speak with your veterinarian before trying any home remedies, especially when it relates to the eye.

The only method of treatment that has been proven to have a high level of success is surgery.

Is There A Way To Prevent Cherry Eye In Boston Terriers?

Is There A Way To Prevent Cherry Eye In Boston Terriers?

There is typically no preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of cherry eye in Bostons. 

A genetic condition usually causes cherry eyes, so there is no proven prevention.

Conclusion

Cherry eyes occur commonly within the Boston Terrier and other small dog breeds.

Cherry eyes are caused by an inherited genetic problem that results in the third eyelid gland not being strongly anchored in place and leads to protrusion of the gland, which appears as a red, round swelling in the lower corner of the eye.


Because cherry eyes are typically caused by connecting tissue in the eye that is too relaxed, to prevent future recurrence and discomfort, the best treatment is surgery.

If you suspect your Boston has a cherry eye, I recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss treatment options.

References

Abrams, K. L. (2004). Managing and Treating Cherry Eye. Clinicians Brief. Retrieved from Clinician Brief.

Brooks, W. (2001) Cherry Eye in Dogs and Cats. Veterinary Partner. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner.

White, C., & Brennan, M. L. (2018). An Evidence-Based Rapid Review of Surgical Techniques for Correction of Prolapsed Nictitans Glands in Dogs. Veterinary Sciences, 5(3), 75. Retrieved from the National Library of Medicine.

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Addie Reinhard, DVM

Addie Reinhard, DVM- Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced small animal veterinarian. She is a Boston Terrier lover and always enjoys caring for her Boston patients at the veterinary clinic. She is passionate about providing helpful educational resources to pet parents regarding animal diseases and preventative care. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats.

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