Nictitating membrane gland prolapse

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Characteristic cherry appearance to the prolapsed nictitating mebrane in a dog[1]

Nictitating third eyelid membrane prolapse (cherry eye) is a common ophthalmology problem in dogs.

This disorder, which often occurs in young French Bulldog, Shar Pei, Great Dane, English Bulldog and Cane Corso breeds, can be readily managed with digital reinsertion of the gland within the third eyelid[2].

Some cases occur bilaterally, and may be associated with other conditions such as Horner's syndrome[3].

Clinical diagnosis is usually based on presenting clinical signs. Histopathology may be required if suspicion of an underlying neoplastic condition may be evident such as apocrine adenoma[4].

However, chronic prolapse of the gland often requires surgical intervention.

Surgery usually involves intranictitans tacking to anchor the prolapsed gland to the cartilage of the third eyelid[5] or the perilimbal pocket technique, suturing the subconjunctival tissues of the nictitating membrane to the episcleral tissues[6].

Surgical removal of the third eyelid is usually curative, but may risk development of temporary keratoconjunctivitis sicca in some dogs[7].


  2. Mazzucchelli S et al (2012) Retrospective study of 155 cases of prolapse of the nictitating membrane gland in dogs. Vet Rec 170(17):443
  3. Bosmans T et al (2009) Transient unilateral Horner's syndrome after epidural ropivacaine in a dog. Vet Anaesth Analg 36(4):401-406
  4. Carr AP et al (1992) An unusual tumor of the nictitating membrane gland of dogs - a case report. Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr 99(11):465-466
  5. Plummer CE et al (2008) Intranictitans tacking for replacement of prolapsed gland of the third eyelid in dogs. Vet Ophthalmol 11(4):228-233
  6. Prémont JE et al (2012) Perilimbal pocket technique for surgical repositioning of prolapsed nictitans gland in dogs. Vet Rec 171(10):247
  7. Dugan SJ et al (1992) Clinical and histologic evaluation of the prolapsed third eyelid gland in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 201(12):1861-1867