Understanding Cherry Eye in Cocker Spaniels

Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

CockerSpaniel.org Volunteer Staff

2/19/20242 min read

What is Cherry Eye?

Cherry eye occurs when the gland of the third eyelid, also known as the nictitating membrane or haw, protrudes or prolapses from its normal position. This gland plays a crucial role in producing tears and maintaining eye health. When it prolapses, it becomes visible as a red or pink mass in the corner of the affected eye, resembling a cherry hence the name "cherry eye."

Causes of Cherry Eye in Cocker Spaniels:

While the exact cause of cherry eye remains unclear, several factors may contribute to its development in Cocker Spaniels:

  • Genetics: Cherry eye is believed to have a genetic component and may be more common in certain breeds, including Cocker Spaniels.

  • Weak Connective Tissue: Weakness in the connective tissue that supports the gland of the third eyelid may predispose dogs to cherry eye.

  • Underlying Eye Conditions: Chronic eye inflammation, infection, or trauma can increase the risk of cherry eye in Cocker Spaniels.

Symptoms of Cherry Eye:

The most obvious symptom of cherry eye in Cocker Spaniels is the appearance of a red or pink mass in the corner of one or both eyes. Other symptoms may include:

  • Excessive blinking or squinting

  • Watery or mucous discharge from the affected eye

  • Irritation or rubbing of the eye

  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva)

Treatment Options for Cherry Eye:

Treatment for cherry eye in Cocker Spaniels typically involves surgical intervention to reposition or remove the prolapsed gland. Common surgical techniques include:

  • Gland Replacement: The prolapsed gland is surgically repositioned and sutured back into place to restore normal function.

  • Gland Tacking: The gland is sutured to the surrounding tissues to prevent future prolapse.

  • Gland Removal: In severe cases or if other treatments are ineffective, the prolapsed gland may be removed. However, this option is usually considered a last resort due to potential long-term complications.

Prevention Strategies:

While cherry eye cannot always be prevented, there are steps Cocker Spaniel owners can take to reduce the risk of its occurrence:

  • Regular Eye Examinations: Schedule routine eye examinations with a veterinarian to detect any early signs of cherry eye or other ocular abnormalities.Avoid Trauma: Minimize the risk of eye trauma by keeping your Cocker Spaniel away from hazardous environments or objects.

  • Maintain Eye Health: Keep your Cocker Spaniel's eyes clean and free from debris by gently wiping them with a damp cloth as needed. Avoid using harsh chemicals or irritants near the eyes.

  • Genetic Screening: If you plan to breed Cocker Spaniels, consider genetic screening to identify dogs with a predisposition to cherry eye and other inherited conditions.


Cherry eye is a common ocular condition that can affect Cocker Spaniels, but with prompt veterinary care and appropriate treatment, affected dogs can often enjoy a good prognosis. By understanding the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and prevention strategies associated with cherry eye, Cocker Spaniel owners can take proactive steps to maintain their pet's eye health and well-being. If you suspect your Cocker Spaniel has cherry eye or any other eye-related concerns, consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and management.


Cocker Spaniels are beloved companions known for their affectionate nature and expressive eyes. However, like all dog breeds, they are susceptible to various health conditions, including cherry eye. Cherry eye, medically known as prolapse of the third eyelid gland, is a common ocular disorder that can affect Cocker Spaniels and other breeds. Understanding the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and prevention strategies for cherry eye is essential for Cocker Spaniel owners.