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Cherry Eye or Prolapse of Harderian gland in German Shepherds

The lacrimal gland of the third eyelid or  Harderian  gland lodges at the base of the third eyelid or nictitating membrane , therefore this sickness is also known as prolapse of the third eyelid tear gland or prolapse of the nictitating membrane gland and ” eye cherry ( cherry eye) “Due to its rounded, turgid appearance, with a smooth and hyperemic surface. Its etiology is not established, it is probably a combination of factors (the most important is the fixation of the gland by hypoplastic connective tissue to the bulbar – genetic conjunctiva), we also have the small size of the glandular pouch and the inability of the dorsal movement of the gland) which convert the prolapse of said gland into one of the most frequent illness in German Shepherds ophthalmology and the most common disorder within the diseases affecting the eyelid . It is a unilateral disorder, very rarely shown bilaterally, which in animals less than one year old and breeds of snout .

What happens when the gland falls out?

In this situation, the gland does not function properly, there is a lack of significant tears. If the gland is not discharged quickly enough, chronic inflammation can completely damage its secretory functions. If this fraction of tears that this gland produces is missing, it may in the future come to another disease entity, such as the Dry Eye Syndrome. This disease requires treatment for the rest of your life.

Why is it falling out?

The gland is attached with delicate ligaments around the edge of the eye socket. In the course of inflammation, viral infection, bacterial eye, but also for no particular reason, these ligaments may be damaged. This leads to a gland out of the third eyelid.

Symptoms of cherry eyes in German Shepherds

  • Clear round pink / red structure protruding from the eyelid at the medial angle of the eye.
  • the dog can scratch the paw, additionally irritating the gland.
  • The inflammation of the eye tissue
    -Significant flow of tears and even oil from the eye

Treatment for Cherry Eyes

Treatment for Cherry eyes in German Shepherds should be done as soon as possible since the third eye produces 50% of the dog tears and if missing can cause damage to the eyes . Not treating quickly can cause dry eye syndrome in your German Shepherd for this very reason the gland should not be removed unless it’s a cancerous lesion.


Conservative treatment has very low effectiveness and frequent relapses. It involves the use of appropriate eye drops and massaging the gland in a proper way.

If there is no clear indication, the gland should not be removed. 
Surgical treatment is the most effective method. It involves the creation of a pouch in the third eyelid, the removal of the gland in its place and the suturing of a previously made pocket over the gland. Cherry eyes surgery

Thanks to this, the gland is in place and can continue to produce tears. Despite the very high effectiveness of this method, it happens that the gland falls out again. Reoperation or the use of another surgical method is required in this situation.


The gland displaced into place functions properly and no complications or health problems are observed. In very rare cases, despite the discharge, it happens that the gland no longer has a secretory function and the Dry Eye Syndrome may occur. This is usually due to the fact that the gland was too late and the chronic inflammation led to its damage.


Cherry eye does not cause pain in the dog, it must be taken into account that this gland is responsible for about 50% of the total tear production that nourishes the corneal surface, that is, the chronic prolapse of the The gland can lead to a dry eye or  dry keratoconjunctivitis . The decision on the treatment is also conditioned by its high tear production, always choosing the glandular replacement against its exeresis . It can be accompanied by conjunctivitis including or not the eversion of the third eyelid cartilage .

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