Cherry Eye in French Bulldogs: How to Diagnose and Treat This Common Condition

🔄 Updated on November 4th, 2022

Cute French bulldog with cherry eyes

Brachycephalic breeds like French bulldogs are more likely to develop eye health problems. Cherry eye is a fairly common condition that bulldogs can get. Cherry eye is easy to identify since you’ll see a small red mass that protrudes from the corner of your dog’s eye.

Thankfully, this condition isn’t serious. It’s something you can treat with medication, but there are cases where your pooch will need a benign surgical procedure to protect her eye.

Read on to learn more about the cherry eye in French bulldogs and what to do if your furry companion develops this eye health condition.

What Is Cherry Eye in French Bulldogs?

Unlike humans, dogs have a third eyelid that forms an opaque tissue and protects the tear film and cornea. Cherry eye is a condition that affects the gland attached to this eyelid.

This third eyelid plays a key role in distributing the tear film over the surface of the eye. It can also protect a dog’s eye from debris.

Unfortunately, the meibomian gland located inside this eyelid can start sagging or drooping. The purpose of this gland is to produce the oily substance that forms the tear film over the eye. 

Address cherry eye early since it prevents the gland from functioning properly and results in a thinner tear film.

What Does Cherry Eye Look Like?

If the eye is healthy, the meibomian gland will remain behind the third eyelid and won’t be visible. If this gland prolapses, it will create a small red or pink mass in the corner of the eye.

The most common symptom of cherry eye is the appearance of a small mass in the corner of the eye. The mass will usually feel smooth to the touch and have an oval shape.

Some dogs experience additional symptoms:

  • Cherry eye is usually not painful, but it can feel uncomfortable. Some dogs will paw at their eye and attempt to scratch their faces.
  • You might notice discharge around the eye areas.
  • Your dog might have teary eyes or might not be able to produce enough tears, resulting in dry eyes.
  • Cherry eye can sometimes restrict vision or cause your dog to squint.

Note that dogs can get a cherry eye in one or two eyes. It’s common to see dogs with two cherry eyes, especially in breeds that are likely to develop this condition.

Are French Bulldogs More Likely to Get Cherry Eye?

Vets don’t fully understand what causes cherry eyes. However, some breeds may be more likely to develop this condition due to weaker ligaments that keep the gland in place.

Cherry eye can appear in any breed, but a cherry eye in Frenchies is more common. The brachycephalic head shape may increase the risk of developing a cherry eye.

This condition is also common in breeds like Cocker Spaniels, bloodhounds, or Boston terriers.

How to Treat French Bulldog’s Red Eyes

The French bulldog’s red eyes treatment will vary depending on how severe the condition is. For early-stage cherry eye French bulldog treatment, your vet will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops.

The eye drops will reduce the swelling and keep your pet comfortable if they’ve developed dry eyes. Your Frenchie might also need antibiotics to help with any eye discharge. If your bulldog keeps pawing or scratching at the affected eye, your vet will probably recommend a cone to protect the area.

If you look for French bulldog cherry eye treatment options online, you might come across sources that recommend massaging the area around the gland to guide it into its initial position.

It’s best not to touch the area or apply any pressure around the prolapsed eye gland. Take your Frenchie to the vet for treatment instead.

Early-Stage Cherry Eye: Will It Go Away by Itself?

In some cases, the prolapsed gland will return to normal by itself or with the help of anti-inflammatory eye drops. If you’re dealing with an early-stage cherry eye in your French bulldog puppy, the condition will likely go away by itself.

However, cherry eye French bulldog might not resolve itself in older dogs. Because cherry eye in French bulldogs is common due to the brachycephalic head shape, it can also become a recurring condition.

Surgical Treatment for Cherry-Eyed Frenchie

If the cherry eye persists after a few weeks of anti-inflammatory treatment, your vet will likely recommend surgery.

During this procedure, your vet will make an incision in the tissue underneath the prolapsed gland to create a pocket. They will then push the gland into this pocket before securing it with suture points.

It’s a benign procedure, but your pet will have to be under complete anesthesia and will likely need medication to prevent swelling after the procedure.

Recovery typically takes a few weeks, and the prognosis is excellent for most dogs. You can expect your four-legged companion to go back to normal after a few weeks.

In most cases, this procedure resolves cherry eyes for good. However, some older dogs can develop cherry eyes again after the surgery and need another operation.

Cherry Eye Vs. French Bulldog Conjunctivitis

Why are my Frenchies’ eyes red? Red eyes don’t necessarily mean your pet is developing cherry eyes. Cherry eye is a swollen and prolapsed eye gland that results in a red or pink mass in the corner of the eye. 

It can cause dry eye and irritation to the rest of the eye, but a cherry eye is usually easy to identify.

There are other possible causes for Frenchie red eyes. If you’re not seeing a mass in the corner of your dog’s eye, your pet might have conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis is a condition where the mucous membrane of the eyes becomes red and inflamed. It can result in red eyes, swelling, discomfort, and discharge.

There are other possible causes for a French bulldog’s red eyes:

  • You might notice your French bulldog’s eye is swollen due to an allergic reaction.
  • An injury or foreign object stuck in the eye can cause redness, swelling, and discharge.
  • In older dogs, red eyes can be a sign of glaucoma.
  • Dry eyes can also result in red eyes and discomfort. While a cherry eye can lead to dry eyes, other possible causes exist, such as inflamed tear glands.

Cherry Eye Complications

If you notice symptoms of cherry eye or other unusual symptoms, you should book an appointment with your vet. Cherry eye can go away by itself, but it’s best to have a vet take a look at the cherry eye and prescribe an anti-inflammatory treatment.

Addressing a cherry eye early will prevent pain and discomfort. It can also prevent complications.

The most common complication from cherry eyes is dry eye. Prolapsed eye glands can’t protect the tear film, which can result in irritation and discomfort.

As the tear film gets thinner, the cornea won’t get the protection it needs. Your dog will be more likely to develop a bacterial infection or sustain eye injuries.

A bacterial infection can result in an open sore known as a corneal ulcer. It’s a painful condition that can result in permanent vision loss if you don’t treat it.

Severe cases of cherry eyes can also cause pigmentation to appear in the eye and eventually lead to vision loss.

Conclusion

Cherry eye in French bulldogs is a common condition. As a Frenchie owner, you need to learn to recognize the symptoms of cherry eye and other eye problems.

If you notice early signs of cherry eye, take your pup to the vet immediately. Starting treatment early can reduce discomfort, prevent complications, and increases your dog’s chances of having the cherry eye go away without surgical treatment.

Sarah Alward | Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Sarah Alward | Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Our resident DVM helps review every article to ensure we always provide scientifically accurate, up-to-date information. She’s proud to help provide pet parents everywhere with the info they need to keep their pets safe, healthy, and comfortable.