Gold star to anyone who guessed correctly what this blog post is about!
Hint number the first: It’s not about sex. Seriously.
Hint number the second: It’s about eyes.
Still don’t know? Well, I will tell you! I’m going to write about another surgery I enjoy that involves eyes! This time, it’s not about removing them, but about making them look nicer. By correcting cherry eye. Woot woot!
Not familiar with cherry eye? I’ll try to break it down for you… there’s a gland in the third eyelid, and in some dogs it prolapses. In other words it pops out of the eyelid and sticks out like a sore thumb. So you see this red lump in the inside corner of the eye, that can get all inflamed and irritated and unpleasant looking. Sometimes you can try eye drops and pushing it back in. . . but typically it will just pop back out.
When puppies have cherry eye, we usually recommend correcting it at the time of spay or neuter – they’ll be under general anaesthesia anyway, why not do everything at once?
Now, unlike enucleation, correcting a cherry eye is not a sure thing. I mean, once I’ve removed an eye, that sucker ain’t growing back. Sometimes, though, when you correct a cherry eye, the gland prolapses again. It has maybe about 80% success rate. Which is pretty good, when you think about it. Not much in life is perfect, so I’m pretty pleased with 80%.
Some people actually opt not to repair it, and let the dog live its life with a wonky looking eye. These dogs usually aren’t bothered by the gland, but may be more prone to eye irritation and/or infection. The ones who have a lot of problems with the prolapsed gland generally have owners who opt to remove it rather than deal with a constant problem. Off the top of my head, I can think of two patients I have who have lived years with a cherry eye without major issues. Either the owners are waiting for an opportunity to combine the repair with another surgery, or they adopted the dog that way and since it doesn’t seem to be a problem for the dog they’re leaving well enough alone.
For those who do go for the repair, it is a finicky lil’ surgery. The third eyelid isn’t super huge, and you’re RIGHT beside the eyeball, which you don’t want to injure. So you need good lighting and a steady hand, for sure. An assistant to hold out the eyelid is also helpful. Ideally one who doesn’t get grossed out by eyeball surgery. (I have one assistant who has to look away while she’s holding the eyelid. . . not super effective. . . )
There’s a few different ways surgeons approach the repair. My preferred approach is to make an incision on either side of the prolapsed gland. Then you suture the outside edge of each little incision together. Bingo bango, as you pull the suture material through, and like magic the gland gets sucked up in this new little pocket you’ve made! Which is why I enjoy this surgery. It’s just so neat! I never get tired of seeing the gland just disappear. Zwoop! Gone! Weeheeheehee!
(Yes, I giggle in surgery. I also dance. You wish you were cool like me.)
Now, if you happen to have a puppy with cherry eye, and you let your veterinarian repair it, they will send you home with an e-collar, or Cone of Shame. This is so the dog won’t rub at the eyes and improve the chance of repair failure. So if you don’t keep that cone on, when the gland pops back out because the dog rubbed his or her eyes to much, it’ll totally be your fault. Just saying.