Ask the Vet

Eye Issue Heritable but Correctable

(Progressive Farmer image by Getty Images)

Reader: 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?

Dr. McMillan: 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.

Reader: I like to feed whole cottonseed to my cattle in the winter at a rate of 2 pounds per cow two to three times a week. I have horses pastured with the cows. I heard whole cottonseed is bad for horses, so I keep them away when feeding the cows. Recently, I was told whole cottonseed can make bulls sterile. What is fact, and what is fiction when it comes to whole cottonseed?

Dr. McMillan: I love whole cottonseed (WCS), but there are some issues with it that need consideration.

To answer your question, I started by checking with several equine experts. What do they think about feeding WCS to horses? Some felt the small amounts you are talking about would probably be safe for mature horses, but no one actually advised feeding it to them.

Having owned horses my entire life, I can attest that they are a continual challenge. Horses have no brain when it comes to eating. I am convinced they will eat until they colic or die. My horses have always run cows off of feed, so I would be concerned that your 2 pounds per head could be much more for a horse, assuming he eats his share plus some. I would advise you to continue to separate the horses from the cows when feeding WCS.

WCS contains gossypol, which is toxic to animals. The level of gossypol varies by cotton variety, as well as by growing season. Nonruminants, such as swine, chickens and horses, are more susceptible to gossypol poisoning because they don't have a rumen to detoxify it. Calves, lambs and kids are essentially "nonruminants" until they are 2 to 3 months of age.

The issue of gossypol and bulls continues to be controversial. Gossypol has been shown in some studies to cause a temporary reduction in sperm-cell formation in bulls, but other studies have not been able to replicate this finding.

Any infertility due to gossypol would take several months to develop, so feeding appropriate amounts to the cow herd during breeding season should not be a problem.

I personally do not feel the data supports not feeding WCS in small amounts to bulls at any time. However, having said that, bull fertility is so important to the bottom line that the small savings is probably not worth the risk.

Please contact your veterinarian with questions pertaining to the health of your herd. Every operation is unique, and the information in this column does not pertain to all situations. This is not intended as medical advice but is purely for informational purposes.

> Write Dr. Ken McMillan at Ask The Vet, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email