Ask The Vet

Eye Issue in Dog Heritable

Many eye issues are correctable, but they are also heritable. (Stock photo from Getty Images)

QUESTION:

Last year, we got a beagle puppy. She was doing well until a tumor suddenly popped up in one of her eyes. It does not seem to bother her, but we bought her to breed, and now I don't know what I should do. What do you think this is, and what is your opinion about breeding her?

ANSWER:

First, you need to take her to your veterinarian for an exam. I am almost sure this is a condition commonly called "cherry eye." Most mammals have a "third eyelid" between the eye and the outside lids. It provides additional protection to the eye and contains a gland that produces a significant portion of the tears that keep eyes moist. A cherry eye occurs when this gland pops out or prolapses. It often happens suddenly. Sometimes it resolves, but most often, even if that is the case, it will return.

I often try an ophthalmic ointment or drops with steroids to see if the condition will resolve. However, in most cases, surgery is required. For many years, veterinarians just removed the gland, but this can lead to a "dry eye" from inadequate tear production. A dry eye will often mat up and become red and irritated. Over time, the cornea becomes cloudy or covered with a dark pigment.

There are several techniques to treat cherry eye today that also allow us to preserve the gland. We always recommend trying to preserve the gland. Also, it's important to be aware that once we fix one eye, there is an increased tendency the other eye will experience a similar prolapse at some point.

So, on the positive side, it is treatable. Unfortunately, as to your question about breeding this beagle, this is a heritable condition. While not every puppy (maybe no puppies) from this dog could be affected, the genetic tendency is there. This should be a strong consideration in deciding to breed a dog like this.

(ES/SK/AG)