Why a Spaniel's Sore Eye Is Nothing to Blink at

Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q My 8-month-old female cocker spaniel is having a problem. A swollen red sore pops up on the inside of her right eye. She has never been injured but rubs the eye occasionally. My vet examined her and put the mass back in place. He told me that it may happen again and would have to be removed by surgery. Is there something else that can be done? Why does this happen?

--Mrs. Jon Roberts,

Garden Grove

A What you described is commonly called "cherry eye" and is enlarged glandular tissue from behind the third eyelid (nictitating membrane). It occurs primarily in small-breed dogs, especially in beagles and cocker spaniels, and may be from a congenital defect in the development of the connective tissue that supports the gland. The glandular tissue is involved in normal tear production.

In most cases, just one eye is affected, but occasionally the gland in the other eye may enlarge at the same time or after repair of the first eye. Sometimes treatment with corticosteroid injections and topical eye medication after replacing the gland in its normal position will reduce or eliminate the problem if it is caught early enough. However, most cases tend to recur and require partial surgical removal of the gland. This must be done carefully because any great reduction in tear production can lead to a drying of the cornea and damage to the eye. After surgery, the dog may need to be treated with a form of artificial tears to keep the eye moist.

Q Our toy poodle has recently developed a limp in his rear left leg, but it happens only once in a while and doesn't seem to hurt him. He will often run and play with our other dog with no problems but will suddenly skip or hop with his rear leg held up. I have felt the leg and he doesn't cry, yet it must hurt him if he doesn't use it. Could his leg be dislocated?

--Mrs. T. Guss,


A Your dog may have a problem with the kneecap of his left rear leg. This condition is called a medially luxating patellaand occurs mostly in small or toy-breed dogs, such as poodles and Pomeranians. The kneecap moves to the inside part of the leg, causing him to flex or pull his leg up. With further motion, the kneecap will pop back into place, and he will walk normally. If this problem goes untreated, arthritis or joint deformity may develop and cause permanent lameness. The dog needs to be examined by your veterinarian. Radiographs may be needed, either to deepen the groove that the kneecap slides on or to repair ligament damage that may have occurred.

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