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Today’s guest post is by Dr. Heather Brookshire, a veterinary ophthalmologist at Animal Vision Center of Virginia.

Keep An Eye Out for Cataracts
By Dr. Heather Brookshire

Do your pet’s eyes appear cloudy? Is she misjudging distances or bumping into objects? These are common signs of cataracts, and it may be time to have your loved one’s eyes checked. A cataract is an opacity that appears within the lens of the eye, causing it to lose transparency and resulting in impaired vision. Most cataracts in dogs form due to genetics, but it can also result from systemic disease (diabetes mellitus); inflammation within the eye (uveitis); trauma; advanced age; or toxic or nutritional causes. It can progress slowly or rapidly, depending on the underlying cause, age and breed of your dog. The only true form of cataract treatment is to remove the cataract with surgery, and we have successfully treated many cases at Animal Vision Center of Virginia.

If you suspect your dog has cataracts, the first step is to schedule a wellness eye exam to have the eyes evaluated. If she is a suitable candidate for surgery, a functional testing of the retina will follow, along with an ocular ultrasound to determine if surgery will restore her vision. The success rate for cataract surgery in dogs is quite high, with greater than 90 percent of cases undergoing a successful procedure and having improved vision following surgery.

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Reprinted with permission.This article is not intended to diagnose
or treat any medical condition and is not a substitute for
an examination by your pet’s veterinarian.

Your pet’s eyes are delicate organs. If you have a concern about your pet’s eyes, 
Contact Us
 to schedule an appointment with our veterinarian.

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Cherry eye (prolapsed conjunctiva) in a 2 year-old ShihTzu. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic. Used by permission of the owner.

Cherry eye (prolapsed conjunctiva) in a 2 year-old ShihTzu. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic. Used by permission of the owner.

It may not be pretty, but the good news about the condition known as “cherry eye” is that it is typically more of a nuisance than a medical emergency.

Dogs and cats have, in each eye, a nictitating* membrane, which is commonly referred to as a “third eyelid.” You may have noticed the thin, white sheet of tissue that appears to cross the eye diagonally, when your pet blinks.
*Nictitating means winking.

The third eyelid is positioned at the inside corner of the eye, between the outer lids and the eyeball. It helps protect the eye, as a physical barrier and by spreading tears over the surface of the cornea with each eye blink.

The third eyelid also has a gland which produces tears. It is this tear gland that sometimes falls out of place (an event known as a prolapse), swells, and assumes the appearance of a cherry, due to irritation and poor blood circulation.

Cherry eye is more commonly seen in dogs than in cats. Dogs most often affected by cherry eye are Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Boston Terriers, and ShihTzus. Burmese and Persian cats are thought to be more at risk than other cat breeds. In either species, cherry eye can appear in one or both eyes.

Lucky 2

Notice how the prolapsed tear gland remains in place as the eyeball moves beneath it. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic. Used by permission of the owner.

 

In some pets, a cherry eye will appear and disappear on its own, at intervals. In others, once the tear gland has prolapsed, it will not return to its proper size and position without surgical intervention.

A popular current surgical technique is the tuck, in which the prolapsed gland is tacked into place with a suture. No surgery is without risk, however; in this case, the tuck may not hold, leading to repeat surgeries.

In the past, when the role of the third eyelid was not as well understood, surgeons removed the gland altogether, which carried the risk that the pet would develop “dry eye” from a lack of sufficient tear production. In the current tuck technique, the gland remains attached, so that it can continue producing tears, which protect the eye.

Although cherry eye is not life-threatening, it can lead to further problems if left untreated. The prolapsed gland may become injured or infected, since it was not designed to be exposed to elements outside the body. As a result of injury or infection, the pet’s eyesight could be harmed.

If you notice a red swelling at the inside corner of your pet’s eye, it could be a prolapsed tear gland. Have your vet check it out to be sure; if it is a cherry eye, your vet will recommend the proper treatment.

Note: This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to diagnose or suggest a course of treatment for any pet. As always, your veterinarian is the best source of information, and he or she can provide a professional medical opinion upon examining your pet.

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Want to read more? Check out these articles at Pet MD and VetStreet.

This article originally appeared on January 10, 2013.

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Cherry eye in a 2 year-old ShihTzu. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic. Used by permission of the owner.

Cherry eye in a 2 year-old ShihTzu. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic. Used by permission of the owner.

It may not be pretty, but the good news about the condition known as cherry eye is that it is typically more of a nuisance than a medical emergency.

Dogs and cats have, in each eye, a nictitating* membrane, which is commonly referred to as a “third eyelid.” You may have noticed the thin, white sheet of tissue that appears to cross the eye diagonally, when your pet blinks.
*Nictitating means winking.

The third eyelid is positioned at the inside corner of the eye, between the outer lids and the eyeball. It helps protect the eye, as a physical barrier and by spreading tears over the surface of the cornea with each eye blink.

The third eyelid also has a gland which produces tears. It is this tear gland that sometimes falls out of place (an event known as a prolapse), swells, and assumes the appearance of a cherry, due to irritation and poor blood circulation.

Cherry eye is more commonly seen in dogs than in cats. Dogs most often affected by cherry eye are Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Boston Terriers, and ShihTzus. Burmese and Persian cats are thought to be more at risk than other cat breeds. In either species, cherry eye can appear in one or both eyes.

Lucky 2

Notice how the prolapsed tear gland remains in place as the eyeball moves beneath it. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic. Used by permission of the owner.

In some pets, a cherry eye will appear and disappear on its own, at intervals. In others, once the tear gland has prolapsed, it will not return to its proper size and position without surgical intervention.

A popular current surgical technique is the tuck, in which the prolapsed gland is tacked into place with a suture. No surgery is without risk, however; in this case, the tuck may not hold, leading to repeat surgeries.

In the past, when the role of the third eyelid was not as well understood, surgeons removed the gland altogether, which carried the risk that the pet would develop “dry eye” from a lack of sufficient tear production. In the current tuck technique, the gland remains attached, so that it can continue producing tears, which protect the eye.

Although cherry eye is not life-threatening, it can lead to further problems if left untreated. The prolapsed gland may become injured or infected, since it was not designed to be exposed to elements outside the body. As a result of injury or infection, the pet’s eyesight could be harmed.

If you notice a red swelling at the inside corner of your pet’s eye, it could be a prolapsed tear gland. Have your vet check it out to be sure; if it is a cherry eye, your vet will recommend the proper treatment.

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Want to read more? Check out these articles at Pet MD and VetStreet.

Read Full Post »