Keeping in mind that I am neither a veterinarian nor a zoologist; here is my understanding of the mechanics of Bulldog eyes: Unlike humans, bulldogs have an inner lower eyelid that is normally hidden and supported by the visible outer lower eyelid. The inner lid contains the tear gland vital to the health of the eye.

Cherry eye happens when the tear gland and surrounding tissue become irritated and swell. If and when the resultant tissue mass becomes too large or rises too high for the outer lid to support it, the tissue spills over the top of the lower lid and everts (ie. turns itself inside out).

Until someone can provide an illustration of this, the best way to visualize this event is to imagine that the inner lid is formed like a teacup with a curve that matches the surface of the eyeball. Imagine that the teacup is made of soft latex rubber so that it could be “turned inside out”. The rounded form of the “cherry” is the “turned inside out” swollen inner eyelid inner eyelid and tear gland. Once “turned inside out” the “cherry” stays outside the confinement and support of the outer eyelid… and generally continues to swell.

Why does cherry eye happen?

I think that everyone agrees that the event that triggers the swelling is an allergic reaction. The event of everting itself is instantaneous (ie. you look at the pup now and he doesn’t have a cherry; you look again a moment later and he does. Often the event occurs along with a violent sneeze.

Since Bulldogs and allergies are synonymous :-) events that trigger the allergic reaction can be pretty hard to pinpoint. In several cases known to me, cherry eye has occurred along with the advent of hay fever season, immediately after vaccination, after exposure to newly installed carpet or fresh paint, and after exposure to a new, playfully biting playmate.

Why Cherry Eye is so prevalent in Bulldogs

Just theory, no documented facts in this section.

The standard and traditional Bulldog eye socket is almond shaped. the bulldog shares this eye formation with the Pekinese and related breeds from its background. That eye shape and an excess of facial wrinkles predisposes Bulldogs to entropion. In entropion, the outer eyelids invert toward the eyeball and put both the eyeball and the delicate corneal membranes at risk of abrasion from the lashes and the foreign particles they carry. Unlike cherry eye, entropion comes on gradually and can be overlooked long enough by novice owners to cause permanent damage to the cornea.

An alternative eye shape for Bulldogs is a rounder, more “soulful” shape that they share with Bassets and other hounds. Long term, this is a lower maintenance eye and, because it’s predisposition is toward cherry eye and not entropion, perhaps a safer eye for novice owners to manage.

I see that many breeders, like myself, are preferring choose the hound eye shape over the almond shaped eye of the Pekinese. That it is easier for novice owners to adapt to the hound temperment than the pique of the Peke is both for discussion elsewhere and no excuse for a bad pun :-) .

What should be done ?

The various case histories that follow should and will include instances of doing nothing, home remedies, and surgical correction. The only acceptable surgical corrections should involve stitches that do not abrade the eyeball and are anchored to the eye socket to tuck the everted eyelid and gland both back into their correct (ie. “outside out”) curvature and inside the supporting outer eyelid.

Seek out a veterinarian that has done this many many times if at all possible.

Complications:

Complications include infection of the swollen membranes, damage to the tear gland, abrasion of eyeball or cornea, involvement of the same eye in an everting episode again, cherry eye in combination with entropion, involvement of the other eye at a later date and having a lot of otherwise good photos spoiled by cherry eye.

The best solution for complications is to seek treatment and correction as early as possible (note: Bulldogs generally are not to undergo surgery until they are at least 12 weeks old). Application of veterinarian supplied ointment is useful and generally warranted.