Eye problems in dogs

Is Cherry Eye Contagious?

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: April 9, 2020
Is Cherry Eye Contagious?

Cherry eye is an unpleasant looking condition that affects many dogs at least once in their life. It is a condition in which nictitans gland (known as a dog’s third eyelid) prolapses from its right place and protrudes from the corner of their eyeball. It looks like a red mass visible in the corner of your dog’s eye near its nose. It is the area where tears come from. Sometimes, cherry eye may also produce mucus discharge from the eye. Although it is not a serious condition, it can potentially lead to inflammation of the gland, if left untreated. If your dog has cherry eye, you might be thinking is cherry eye contagious to you and other dogs around it. oneHOWTO shows you that cherry eye is contagious depending on its cause, showing you when you need to be most careful.

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  1. Types of cherry eye
  2. Words about cherry eye contagiousness
  3. Is cherry eye genetic?
  4. How to prevent cherry eye from spreading
  5. Dog breeds with increased risk of cherry eye
  6. Diagnosis of cherry eye
  7. Treatment of cherry eye

Types of cherry eye

Before you understand whether cherry eye is contagious, you need to understand differences between infectious conjunctivitis and other conjunctivitis types. Conjunctivitis is diagnosed when the white part of the eye and the pink tissue that covers the inside part of the eyelids become inflamed. There can be several factors which lead to this condition. Usually, only a small number of dogs can get viral, bacterial or parasitic conjunctivitis, while most of them have a non-infectious condition only.

Non-infectious conjunctivitis is often caused due to a number of factors, such as foreign matter entering the eye (such as dirt or grit), a chemical irritant getting in touch with the eye (such as shampoo), allergies or a congenital condition like an abnormality in the tear duct. Sometimes, conjunctivitis may also be caused by an injury your dog received during a dog fight. Non-infectious kinds of conjunctivitis are more often found in particular breeds of dog, such as hounds and retrievers who have a drooping eyelid. This shape of the eye practically invites foreign bodies to come and get accumulated near their conjunctiva. Eyelids of smaller dog breeds tend to turn in on itself, due to which their eyelash rubs the cornea and leads to inflammation.

Sometimes, a dog may develop cherry eye due to a bacterial or fungal infection. In these cases, the root cause can be a serious condition, like sun damage, dermatitis, weak immunity or even cancer. If your dog’s cherry eye has developed due to any of these reasons, it may be hereditary and its best not to let your dog breed.

Words about cherry eye contagiousness

Non-infectious cherry eye caused due to foreign matter, allergies or physical abnormality is not contagious. On the other hand, infectious conjunctivitis might be. If your dog’s cherry eye is caused due to a viral infection, it is not contagious to humans, but may be so to other dogs. If it is caused by bacteria, it can spread to other dogs, as well as to humans. If your dog has non-contagious conjunctivitis, the veterinarian may recommend artificial tears, steroid eye drops and cold compresses. But if it has contagious cherry eye, then the veterinarian may choose to use antibiotic eye ointments and/or drops.

Most of the time, cherry eye is non-contagious. Still, some dogs can develop simultaneous eye infections. This is perhaps due to the discharge, not due to the spreading of the cherry eye itself. Most importantly, you should not confuse cherry eye with pink eye, which is a highly contagious condition among dogs. Although cherry eye is not painful, it may need to be corrected surgically and it has high chances of reoccurrence. However, if the gland is exposed for a long time, it may dry up and get damaged or irritated with significant inflammation and swelling.

Is cherry eye genetic?

As far as inheritance of cherry eye is concerned, research has not always been able to determine the exact nature genetics plays. However, there is sufficient research to show there are a strong genetic risk factors[1]. It is difficult to say if both parents of a dog need to have recessive genes to develop such conditions. On a general note, if both parents of a dog had cherry eye, then their puppy will have higher chances of developing the same condition as well. Therefore, such dogs are not recommended to breed to avoid development of this condition.

How to prevent cherry eye from spreading

It is most important to wash your hands properly every time you touch the affected eye or surrounding area of your dog. Secondly, regularly clean the face of your dog with a moist cloth or cotton ball to remove discharge from time to time. Also, wash any surface which comes in contact with the face of your dog such as toys, food, water bowls, etc.

Closely follow your veterinarian’s instructions and administer the recommended medicine on time. As long as you exercise basic hygiene steps, you don’t need to worry too much about spreading the disease. Although one dog may catch infection from another, the risk is minimal if appropriate precautions are taken. Before you send your dog to a kennel, or leave it with a pet sitter or dog walker, make sure that they are aware of conjunctivitis and the precautions they need to take.

Dog breeds with increased risk of cherry eye

Although any dog can get cherry eye, certain breeds are believed to have increased risk of getting this condition. Some of the most common dog breeds to have genetic predisposition to the issue include Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Boston Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Shih Tzu, Poodle, Shar Pei, St. Bernard and lhasa Apso. Most dogs that are susceptible to develop this disease will do so at a very young age. Cherry eye may occur in one eye or both eyes. Most dogs that contract cherry eye in one eye often contract it in the other eye also.

Is Cherry Eye Contagious? - Dog breeds with increased risk of cherry eye

Diagnosis of cherry eye

The appearance of your dog’s cherry eye may keep changing in severity. Sometimes, you may feel it improving, though this is temporary and it keeps prolapsing. You should immediately take your furry friend to the veterinarian, as the bulge may easily get infected or injured. If left untreated, it may also develop into constant ocular discharge, dry eye or chronic conjunctivitis. The veterinarian will do a thorough examination of the dog’s eye, inspect it properly and verify if there is any foreign matter in the eye. They will also check the eye for pus related infection. A senior dog may have to undergo thorough testing in order to rule out chances of cancer.

Treatment of cherry eye

Timely treatment can be the most effective resolution for cherry eye. Initially, medicines and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to strengthen the ligaments and clear the tissue. But relapse is very common and most cases require surgical intervention. Before surgery is considered, any irritation and infection will be treated first through antibiotics and ointments. After the surgery, inflammation may be seen for 1-2 weeks, after which the eye starts regaining its normal appearance. The dog may need to take oral antibiotics for 5-10 days so that the eye heals properly and it does not contract any further infection. During the recovery period, allow your pet to take complete rest and keep it away from bathing and swimming. Remember, dogs who have increased risk of developing this condition may have a relapse or other eye related problems in future.

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