Common Surgical Eye Problems of Bulldogs

Bulldogs are often afflicted with two common eye problems: "cherry eye", and entropion. These conditions are typically inherited in this breed (i.e. genetic). "Cherry eye" is the popular term used for the prolapse (sticking out) of the gland of the third eyelid in dogs. In certain breeds this gland is not strongly held in place and can stick out abnormally. When it is out of its normal position the gland gets improper circulation and may swell. Historically the prolapsed gland was treated by surgical removal, but this was eventually shown to lead to a condition called dry eye in which the tear production for the eye is inadequate. The dry eye condition is uncomfortable and typically affects the vision as well. The current treatment for cherry eye is surgical replacement of the prolapsed gland. A wedge of tissue is removed from directly over the gland and this is used to create a pouch into which the gland is tucked and sutured closed. Sometimes the tuck is not anchored well enough to hold permanently, and it is not uncommon for a second tuck to be needed. 

Complications of cherry eye surgery may include: inflammation or swelling around the eye as the stitches dissolve; inadequate tightening of the pouch leading to recurrence; and loose stitches that may cause discomfort in the eye. Some post-operative swelling after cherry eye surgery should be expected, but this should resolve and the eye should be normal in appearance after about one week. 

Entropion is a condition in which the eyelids roll inward, allowing the eyelashes or other hair to rub against the cornea and irritate it. The upper and/or lower eyelids can be affected and the condition can occur in either one or both eyes. In some dogs, entropion is never more than a minor annoyance, but in others it can cause corneal ulcers that can lead to scarring and affect vision. When there is a genetic factor causing entropion, as in English bulldogs, it can be seen well before the dog's first birthday. 

Medical treatment with ophthalmic ointments can decrease damage to the cornea, but it cannot resolve the entropion itself. To permanently fix the eyelid, surgery is needed. The surgery is a procedure called blepharoplasty. In this procedure, the excess skin of the outer lids is removed. In some cases, excess skin that causes skin folds around the eyes is also removed. Recurrence is extremely rare. The healing time for this surgery is 10 to 14 days. Blepharoplasty is typically not performed on puppies less than 6 months of age because it is not possible to predict what the adult head conformation will be at that age, and therefore whether surgery would be warranted. Temporary eyelid tacking can be performed in younger puppies until they mature and grow into their adult facial features.