Cherry eye: the breeds and crosses most at risk

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Latest research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has identified the breeds most at risk of developing an uncomfortable eye condition known as cherry eye. The list includes flat-faced breeds such as the English Bulldog as well as popular crossbreeds such as the Puggle.

Clinically known as Prolapsed Nictitating Membrane Gland, cherry eye is a result of the gland on the inner side of the third eyelid prolapsing, becoming red and swollen. Surgery is usually required to treat the condition, which can lead to serious eye injury if left untreated.

Led by the RVC’s VetCompass Programme, the study was “the largest exploration of cherry eye in dogs in the world”, conducted on the anonymised veterinary health records of 905,553 dogs for a year.

Cherry eye
Image by RVC

About 0,20 per cent of dogs were affected by this condition, with some breeds at a much higher risk than average of developing it. The breeds most affected are:

  • Neapolitan Mastiffs (4.9%)
  • English Bulldogs (4.8%)
  • Lhasa Apsos (1.6%)
  • American Cocker Spaniels (1.5%)

Among popular crossbreeds, the Puggle (Pug x Beagle) and Jug (Jack Russell Terrier x Pug) were also significantly affected. As a whole, flat-faced breeds and crossbreeds were significantly more affected than average.

Image by RVC

Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC and lead author of the paper, said, “Given that humans designed dog breeds in the first place, we all carry a heavy responsibility to constantly improve our designs to breed away from poor health for these dogs.

“The hugely increased risks of cherry eye in popular flat-faced breeds such as English Bulldogs suggests that we have some way to go before we can consider many flat-faced breeds as designed for optimal health.

“The findings from this study will hopefully help prospective owners make better informed choices when purchasing a dog. We urge all would-be dog owners to follow advice from the UK Brachycephalic Working Group to ‘stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’.”

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