Today we're going to cover something that's very DIY in nature, but it falls well outside of the realm of "home improvement." Instead, it deals with a decidedly DIY approach to a medical issue. More specifically, one involving our beloved canine daughter, Lulu.
The homeopathic remedy I'm covering today deals with a very common genetic issue in dogs called "cherry eye." Let me warn you, some of the photos that are in this post can be unsettling. But allow me to assure you, even if they look gross, as long as the animals afflicted with this condition are treated in a timely manner, the animals are in no way in pain.
Cherry eye is actually a very simple issue involving the weakening, stretching, or detachment of anchoring tissue on an ocular gland that's sometimes referred to as a "third eyelid." In dogs this third eyelid plays a role that promotes oxygen supply and tear production to the eye. When working correctly, the third eyelid stays tucked away and out of sight. However, when anchoring tissue is not fully doing its job, this third eyelid can protrude from behind the eye and will be visible as a red or pink mass that partially obscures the corner of the eye.
Our story of cherry eye actually starts several years ago, in fact the very week we adopted Lulu. As new pet parents of Lulu, and having just lost Oliver after a long medical fight against cancer, Wendy and I were fragile yet optimistic about adopting our new girl. She seemed quite happy and healthy, albeit a little neurotic at times. One day, shortly after our adoption, we decided to head to PetSmart to have Lulu's nails trimmed and pick up a few supplies. Little did we know just how much Lulu hated, and I mean HATED, having her nails trimmed.
After several minutes of struggle that began to make our pet parent stomachs turn, they opted to take her to a back room to "calm her." In retrospect, we should have listened to our gut and called the whole thing off, but we didn't. We'll never make this mistake again, I can tell you that. When Lulu emerged with her trimmed nails, she also had a red blob over her eyelid.
We were shocked, as she hadn't arrived with this condition. The store staff were somewhat dismissive and said, "Oh, that was there when you brought her in." You should have seen how upset Wendy and I were. As I said, never again!
The PetSmart vet who was in the office gave us a "complimentary exam" and checked Lulu over due to our concern/upset. After a few minutes he diagnosed her with "cherry eye," a common and genetic issue impacting young dogs of certain breeds, including pugs. He said, "Surgery is really the only fix, and that will be about $800." Furious, and wanting a second opinion from our own vet, we went home...feeling like the worst pet parents in the world. How could we have let this happen?!?
On the way home Lulu was her normal drooling and neurotic car riding self, which made us feel a little better. And when we arrived home we immediately made an appointment with our vet, Dr. Farrell. We really didn't know what to expect, so I started looking around at various online resources. Apparently pet ailment websites aren't nearly as alarmist as human sites, because not once did any of them lead me to believe Lulu was sure to be done in by some rare disease. Instead, everything mostly said the same things. Through all of the references to surgery, antibiotics, and steroids, I noticed one thing that piqued my interest. It seemed that some people had luck through relaxation and gentle massage to repair the issue.
I gave it a shot with the instructions I found online and was able to correct the issue with the protruding gland. When we took Lulu to the vet the next day for her checkup, our vet almost didn't believe us that it had happened. She had never heard of cherry eye showing up due to thrashing trauma, and she also had never heard of correction through massage. However, she was very open to the idea and figured it was worth just keeping an eye on it. (We still think she just didn't believe it was actually cherry eye, especially with no photo proof.)
Fast forward nearly three years, Lulu has been cherry eye free after my massage fix...until this past weekend. I was walking out of our office and Lulu came prancing down the hall looking at me with a pink blob over here eye. I immediately knew what it was. This time I thought, "I'm going to actually get a photo of this!" Here's what I saw.
I don't know what she did, how she twisted, what angle she looked in, what squirrel caused her to bug out, or what anomaly occurred, but Lulu's third eyelid had made a reappearance. However, this time I was calm, cool, and collected. I knew of a way to potentially fix the issue on my own, and worst case, I knew we could always take her to an eye specialist to have the glad placed back in its appropriate place.
As a calm pet parent (good thing I was the only one home, Wendy isn't nearly as calm in these scenarios) I grabbed a clean cloth and dampened it with warm water.
Then the hard part, calming the beast. I worked to calm our normally somewhat spastic dog. That, in itself, was no easy task. After several minutes of tummy rubs and calm petting, I had myself a relaxed puppy.
Using the warm cloth I gently laid it over her closed eyelid on the affected eye. After allowing it to warm the area for a few minutes to promote tear production and lubricate the area (still rubbing her tummy), I began to slowly massage the area where the gland had protruded. If she had issues with dry eyes or no tear production, we'd also use eye drops to help promote a more slippery surface. Removing the damp cloth, I *very* gently moved my thumb over her eyelid, putting almost no pressure on her eye, from the center of her closed eye towards the corner of her eye near her nose. I repeated this several times until I felt the third eyelid almost suck back into the right place. I massaged just a little bit more because I think she was sort of enjoying the attention, then I stopped to take a look.
When Lulu opened her eye the pink mass had disappeared. No longer was her third eyelid protruding in a rather awkward manner. Best of all, I was able to correct it on my own before Wendy arrived home. The last thing I wanted was for Wendy to walk in, freak out, and then have her third eyelid pop out. I'd have to work on two patients at that point.
I believe the massage technique is a good option, but timing and severity of the issue is critical to success. The longer the issue is left untreated, the less likely the massage will be to correct the gland's location. Also, if it's a complete detachment of the anchoring tissue, there will be nothing that keeps the gland in place, so after massage, it will just pop back out. It's also true that this approach may not be resolving the root cause of the issue, and it may continue to occur at random points in the future, but thus far we've been nearly three full years since the last occurrence. If we can continue on that track record I think we're in pretty darn good shape. In the worst case scenario the issue can't be corrected using this homeopathic remedy or it keeps appearing frequently. In that case we'll need to pursue a surgical remedy. But we'll cross that bridge if we come to it.
One thing to note regarding corrective surgery on cherry eye are the typical approaches a surgeon may take. There are two primary approaches to correcting cherry eye from a surgical perspective. One deals with correcting the issue and securing the glad in the correct location, while another deals with surgical removal of the gland. If given the option, absolutely go with the first approach. The gland is essential for tear production and will cause many long term issues if removed. Typically it's only removed if the gland has been damaged by being left exposed for too long, so it's important to deal with this issue much sooner than later.
You need to do what you're comfortable with, and we're by no means medical experts on the subject. But after talking it over with our trusted vet, we're comfortable with this approach when the need arises. Also, if this happens to your dog, even if the massage corrects the issue, make sure you still take your pup to the vet for a checkup. There can be underlying causes of cherry eye that still need to be investigated to ensure there are not more serious problems at play.
I hope our tale of Lulu's cherry eye and our ultimate home remedy fix will come in handy if you are ever in a situation where you have to deal with cherry eye. I'm very interested to know, have you ever had a dog that has had this issue? What sorts of things caused it? And if you went the surgical route, what were your experiences? Anything you can tell us to watch out for or advice you can give is very welcome.