How Much Does Cherry Eye Surgery Cost for Dogs?


Bryan Huynh

- Updated February 20, 2024

How Much Does Cherry Eye Surgery Cost for Dogs?

Our four-legged friends bring immeasurable joy and companionship into our lives, making it essential for us to ensure their health and well-being. Unfortunately, like humans, dogs can also face various health issues, and one common concern that can affect our canine companions is cherry eye.

Cherry eye, medically known as nictitans gland prolapse, is a condition where the tear gland in a dog’s third eyelid becomes inflamed or displaced, resulting in a noticeable red or pink mass protruding from the corner of the eye. While it may not be life-threatening, it can cause discomfort and requires medical attention. In many cases, the most effective treatment option is cherry eye surgery.

However, like any medical procedure, cherry eye surgery comes with a price tag that can vary significantly depending on various factors. As responsible pet owners, we must be informed about the costs of this surgery to ensure that our furry friends receive the best possible care without breaking the bank.


What is Cherry Eye?

In the context of dogs, cherry eye is a common and easily recognizable eye condition also known as “nictitans gland prolapse” or “prolapsed third eyelid gland.” It occurs when the tear gland, the “nictitans gland” or “gland of the third eye,” becomes inflamed, displaced, or swollen. This causes an abnormal reddish or pinkish mass to protrude from the corner of the dog’s eye. This swollen gland resembles a small, cherry-like bump, hence the term “cherry eye.”

Let’s go over the anatomy of a dog’s eye.

The Conjunctiva

This is the thin, transparent membrane lining the inner surface of the eyelids and covers the front part of the eye (the cornea). It helps keep the eye moist and provides a protective barrier.

The Third Eyelid (Nictitating Membrane)

Dogs and several other animals have a third eyelid in the inner corner of each eye. This nictitating membrane is typically hidden from view but serves several vital functions, including protecting the eye, spreading tears across the cornea, and containing a specialized gland – the nictitans.

The Nictitans Gland (Cherry Eye)

Within the third eyelid, the nictitans gland produces a portion of the eye’s tear film. This gland plays a crucial role in maintaining proper eye lubrication and protecting against eye irritants.

Cherry eye can occur when the connective tissue that holds the nictitans gland in place weakens or loses its elasticity. This weakening can cause the gland to shift from its normal position and become exposed. As a result, the gland becomes visible as a rounded, reddish, or pinkish mass that protrudes from the corner of the eye, resembling a cherry.

Cherry eye is primarily a cosmetic concern. But it can also lead to eye irritation and discomfort if it worsens. In severe cases, it can affect tear production, potentially leading to dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca). Therefore, it is essential to address the cherry eye promptly through surgical intervention, as leaving it untreated can lead to complications that could impact your dog’s health.


Main Causes of Cherry Eye

The development of cherry eye in dogs comes from genetic predisposition, underlying anatomical issues, and external factors. Understanding these causes is crucial for pet owners and veterinarians in managing and preventing this eye condition. Here are the leading causes of cherry eye:

Genetic Predisposition

Breed Susceptibility

Certain dog breeds are more prone to cherry eye due to their genetics. Breeds such as bulldogs, cocker spaniels, beagles, shih tzus, and Boston terriers are likelier to develop cherry eye. This fact suggests a genetic component to the condition.

Underlying Anatomical Issues

Weak Connective Tissue

The primary cause of cherry eye is a weakening of the connective tissue that holds the nictitans gland (third eyelid gland) in place. Dogs with inherently weaker connective tissue may be more susceptible to this condition.

Shallow Eye Sockets

Some dogs may have shallow eye sockets or inadequate support for the third eyelid, making it easier for the gland to prolapse or move out of position.

External Factors and Other Triggers

Eye Irritation

Allergens, foreign objects, or eye infections can lead to eye irritation, causing a dog to rub or scratch its eyes. Chronic irritation and rubbing can contribute to the development of cherry eye.


Accidental injury to the eye or head can disrupt the normal position of the third eyelid gland, leading to cherry eye.

Stress or Anxiety

Dogs experiencing stress or anxiety may exhibit excessive eye rubbing or squinting, exacerbating the condition.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal fluctuations, such as pregnancy or estrus in female dogs, may contribute to the development of cherry eye in some cases.

It’s important to note that while genetics significantly predisposes certain breeds to cherry eye, it can occur in any breed or mixed-breed dog. Additionally, the condition can affect dogs of various ages, although it is more common in young dogs under two.

When dealing with cherry eye, prompt veterinary assessment and intervention are essential to address the underlying causes and prevent potential complications. Surgical correction is often recommended to reposition the prolapsed gland and restore normal eye function. Veterinarians may also assess for any underlying anatomical issues and provide guidance on managing external factors contributing to the condition’s development or recurrence.


Symptoms of Cherry Eye

Cherry eye is a distinctive and easily recognizable eye condition in dogs, primarily characterized by several noticeable symptoms. Understanding these symptoms can help pet owners identify the condition early and seek prompt veterinary care. Here are the key signs of cherry eye:

Prolapsed Gland

The most striking and defining symptom of cherry eye is the presence of a pink, reddish, or sometimes even purplish mass that protrudes from the inner corner of the affected eye. This swollen mass resembles a cherry, which is how the condition gets its name.

Discomfort or Itchiness

Dogs with cherry eye often exhibit signs of eye discomfort or itchiness. They may frequently paw at or rub the affected eye, trying to relieve the irritation caused by the protruding gland.

Redness and Swelling

The area around the affected eye may become visibly red and swollen. This inflammation results from the irritation and the body’s response to the exposed gland.

Excessive Tearing or Discharge

Cherry eye can increase tear production, causing excessive tearing or watery discharge from the affected eye. While this might initially appear as if the eye is producing more tears, it’s often due to the irritation caused by the prolapsed gland.

Squinting or Blinking

Dogs with cherry eye may squint or blink more frequently than usual. This is a natural response to the discomfort and may also be an attempt to protect the affected eye.

Changes in Eye Behavior

Some dogs may exhibit changes in their eye behavior, such as keeping the affected eye partially closed or avoiding exposure to bright light. These behaviors are indicative of their discomfort.

Vision Changes (in Severe Cases)

In severe or long-standing cases of cherry eye that go untreated, dogs may experience vision changes. This can occur if the condition leads to complications like corneal ulcers or chronic irritation.

It’s important to be vigilant and observe your dog’s eye health regularly. If any of these symptoms are noticed, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian promptly. While cherry eye itself is not typically a life-threatening condition, early intervention can help prevent complications and discomfort for your furry companion.


Breeds Most Prone to Cherry Eye

Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing cherry eye due to genetic factors and underlying anatomical differences. While cherry eye can occur in any breed, some breeds are notably predisposed to this condition. Here are a few of the breeds most commonly affected by cherry eye:


Bulldogs are at high risk for cherry eye due to their genetic predisposition. Their breed’s unique facial structure, characterized by prominent eyes and flat faces, can lead to anatomical issues that make the connective tissues supporting the third eye gland weaker.

Cocker Spaniels

Cocker spaniels are also prone to cherry eye, and genetics significantly influence their susceptibility. Their breed’s genetics may contribute to weakened connective tissue, making the gland's prolapse easier.


Beagles are known to be predisposed to cherry eye, which may be related to their breed’s genetics. The genetic factors that make them more susceptible are not fully understood but are likely linked to connective tissue issues.

Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus often experience cherry eye, and their brachycephalic (flat-faced) features may contribute to this predisposition. The structure of their eyes and facial anatomy can make them more prone to gland prolapse.

Boston Terriers

Boston terriers are another breed that frequently develops cherry eye. Hereditary factors affecting the strength of the connective tissues around the gland likely cause this genetic predisposition.

How Much Does Cherry Eye Surgery Cost?

The cost of cherry eye surgery for dogs can vary widely depending on several factors. Providing an exact figure is challenging since prices fluctuate based on location, veterinary clinic, and individual cases. Here’s a general range of what you might expect to pay for cherry eye surgery and factors that can influence the overall price.

Cost Range

On average, cherry eye surgery costs typically fall within the range of $300 to $800 per eye. However, prices can go higher or lower depending on various factors.


The geographical location of the veterinary clinic plays a significant role in determining the surgery cost. Veterinarian fees, clinic overhead, and living costs in a particular area can all affect pricing. Urban areas and regions with a higher cost of living may have higher surgery costs.

Veterinarian’s Experience

The level of experience and expertise of the veterinarian performing the surgery can impact the price. Veterinarians with advanced training or specialized skills may charge more for their services.

Unilateral vs. Bilateral Surgery

The cost can vary significantly Depending on whether one of the dog’s eyes requires surgery. Bilateral surgery (surgery on both eyes) will cost more than unilateral surgery (surgery on one eye).

Preoperative Assessment

Some dogs may require additional preoperative assessments, such as bloodwork or diagnostic imaging, to evaluate their overall health and the extent of the condition.

Anesthesia and Medication

The type of anesthesia used and the medications required during and after the surgery can influence the cost. More advanced or specialized anesthesia techniques may come at an additional expense.

Follow-Up Care

Post-surgery care, including medications, follow-up appointments, and potential complications, can affect the overall cost. It’s essential to budget for any necessary follow-up care.

Pet Insurance

If you have pet insurance, check whether cherry eye surgery is covered under your policy. Depending on your coverage, insurance can help offset some of the costs.

Cost Breakdown

The cost breakdown for cherry eye surgery typically includes several components. The initial consultation fee covers the veterinary assessment to diagnose the condition and discuss treatment options, typically ranging from $50 to $100. Pre-operative tests, such as bloodwork or diagnostic imaging, can vary in cost but are usually an additional expense.

The surgery involves repositioning the prolapsed gland, which may range from $300 to $800 per eye. Post-operative care includes follow-up appointments, medications, and potential complications. Medications can vary in price, depending on the type and duration of treatment needed. Consult your veterinarian for an accurate estimate, as individual cases and clinic policies can affect the final cost breakdown.

Does Pet Insurance Cover It?

Pet insurance can be a valuable resource in helping to cover the costs of cherry eye surgery and related treatment plans. Most pet insurance policies cover medical conditions and surgeries involving eyes. Reviewing the policy details is crucial when considering pet insurance for cherry eye coverage. Look for policies that include coverage for hereditary or congenital conditions, as cherry eye is often considered one of these. Be aware of any waiting periods, deductibles, and reimbursement rates outlined in the policy.

Consider whether there are annual or lifetime payout limits, as this can affect the extent of the coverage. Choose a reputable pet insurance provider, read the policy terms thoroughly, and don’t hesitate to ask questions about what they cover regarding conditions like cherry eye.

Alternative Treatments for Cherry Eye in Dogs

While surgery is often the primary treatment for cherry eye in dogs, alternative non-surgical options may be considered in some instances. These alternatives include topical ointments or drops to reduce inflammation and lubricate the eye and manual gland repositioning performed by a veterinarian.

These non-surgical methods are generally considered temporary solutions and may not address the weakened connective tissue. They may be more suitable for dogs who are not ideal candidates for surgery due to age, health concerns, or other factors.

Effectiveness can vary, and while some dogs may experience temporary relief, cherry eye is more likely to recur with non-surgical approaches. Always consult a veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your dog’s specific case, as surgery is often the most effective and permanent solution for cherry eye.

Post-Op Recovery

Post-op recovery following cherry eye surgery is crucial for your dog’s well-being. The expected recovery timeline can vary depending on the individual dog and the specific technique used, but it typically spans several weeks. Signs of successful recovery include reduced redness, swelling, and a well-healed surgical incision.

Adhere closely to your veterinarian’s guidelines during this period. These may include administering prescribed medications, keeping the surgical area clean, and limiting your dog’s physical activity. Following these instructions helps ensure a smooth recovery process and minimizes the risk of complications. Regular follow-up appointments with your veterinarian are also vital to monitor progress and address concerns promptly, ultimately allowing your furry friend to enjoy a healthier and happier life post-surgery.


Recognizing and promptly addressing cherry eye in our canine companions is paramount. While not typically life-threatening, this condition can cause discomfort and potential complications if left untreated. While the cost of surgery and treatment may be a consideration, it’s essential to balance the financial aspect, treatment efficacy, and, most importantly, the well-being of your beloved dog.

Timely intervention and appropriate care alleviate discomfort and help prevent long-term consequences, ensuring your furry friend enjoys a healthier and happier life. Remember, your veterinarian is your best ally in navigating the complexities of cherry eye, providing guidance, and tailoring a treatment plan that prioritizes your pet’s ocular health and overall quality of life.

About The Author

Bryan Huynh

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a dedicated Product Tester & Writer. Just as insurance has your back, Bryan works to review and inform you about the wide range of insurance products available, ranging from business, auto, health, home, pet, to life insurance.

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