How Much Does Cherry Eye Surgery Cost?

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Written by
Bob Phillips
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Cherry eye, a condition affecting dogs where the tear gland in the third eyelid prolapses, can be distressing for both pets and their owners. If you’re searching for information on cherry eye surgery costs, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ll examine cherry eye, its causes, available treatments, and, most importantly, the surgical costs. Ignoring this condition can lead to more severe health issues, such as chronic eye infections or even loss of vision. With over 15 years of experience in the insurance industry and as a dog owner, I’ve seen how critical timely intervention can be to ensure your pet’s well-being.

Key Takeaways

  • Surgery is typically the preferred method to correct cherry eye

  • On average, the cost of cherry eye surgery ranges from $300 to $2,500 per eye

  • Most pet insurance plans cover surgeries for conditions like cherry eye

What Is Cherry Eye?

Cherry eye is a medical condition that affects the eyes of dogs and occasionally other animals like cats. It occurs when the tear gland in the third eyelid, also known as the nictitating membrane, prolapses or pops out of its normal position. This gland is responsible for producing a significant portion of the tear film that lubricates and protects the eye.

In dogs with cherry eye, this gland protrudes from the corner of the eye, creating a red, swollen mass that resembles a cherry—hence the name “cherry eye.” This condition can affect one or both eyes and is more commonly seen in younger dogs, typically those under the age of two. Certain breeds, such as Bulldogs, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, and Lhasa Apsos, are more predisposed to developing cherry eye due to genetic factors.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The primary symptom of cherry eye is the visible red, swollen gland in the corner of the eye. Other signs may include:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Swelling and redness around the eye
  • Squinting or blinking more than usual
  • Eye irritation or rubbing at the eye

A veterinarian can diagnose cherry eye through a physical examination of the eye. In some cases, additional tests may be performed to rule out other eye conditions and assess the eye’s overall health.


The exact cause of cherry eye is not always clear, but it is often linked to a weakness or genetic predisposition in the connective tissue that holds the gland in place. Trauma to the eye area can also trigger the prolapse of the gland. Since the condition is more common in certain breeds, genetic factors are believed to play a significant role.


Treatment options for cherry eye include both non-surgical and surgical methods:

Non-Surgical Treatments: In the early stages, anti-inflammatory medications and massage techniques may be attempted to reposition the gland. However, these methods are often temporary and not always successful in preventing recurrence.

Surgical Treatments: Surgery is typically the preferred method to correct cherry eye. There are two primary surgical techniques:

  • Tacking Method: The prolapsed gland is sutured back into its normal position. This method aims to preserve the gland’s function.
  • Removal Method: The gland is removed entirely, which can lead to chronic dry eye and the need for lifelong eye lubrication.

Early intervention and treatment are essential to prevent complications such as chronic dry eye, recurrent eye infections, or permanent damage to the eye. If you notice signs of cherry eye in your pet, consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

How Much Does Cherry Eye Surgery Cost?

Cherry eye surgery costs can vary widely based on several factors, including the geographical location, the veterinarian’s experience, and the specific surgical technique used. On average, the cost ranges from $300 to $2,500 per eye.

What Is Included in the Surgery Cost?

The total cost of cherry eye surgery typically includes several components:

  • Initial Vet Visit: $50 to $200
  • Pre-Surgery Blood Work: $50 to $100
  • Anesthesia: $50 to $150
  • Surgical Procedure: $300 to $1,900
  • Medications (e.g., eye drops, pain relief): $50 to $100
  • E-collar (Elizabethan collar): $20 to $50

Post-surgery check-ups, which ensure proper healing, are generally not included in the initial quote and can cost an additional $50 to $100 per visit​​.

Real-World Examples of Cherry Eye Surgery Costs

  1. VCA Animal Hospitals: Costs range from $300 to $800 for a basic surgical correction of cherry eye. More complex cases or those requiring specialized care may be higher​ ​.
  2. Lemonade Pet Insurance: They provide a range of $700 to $1,800 per eye for repositioning the gland, emphasizing the additional costs associated with follow-up care and potential complications​ ​.
  3. A-Z Animals: They report a general cost range of $300 to $1,800, noting that the price can vary based on whether one or both eyes are affected, as well as the severity of the condition and additional health factors of the dog​​.

What Factors Affect The Cost Of Cherry Eye Surgery?

The cost of cherry eye surgery can vary significantly based on several factors. Understanding these factors can help you anticipate the expenses and make informed decisions about your pet’s care.

  • Geographical Location: The cost of veterinary services can vary widely depending on the location, with higher costs in metropolitan areas and lower costs in rural areas​.
  • Veterinarian’s Experience and Specialty: A board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist may charge more due to their specialized training and expertise, which is crucial for complex cases​​.
  • Type of Surgical Procedure: The tacking method, which involves suturing the gland back into place, is generally more expensive but preferred for preserving gland function and reducing recurrence​​.
  • Pre-Surgery Consultations and Diagnostics: Diagnostic tests and consultations such as blood work and physical examinations are required before surgery, adding to the overall cost​​.
  • Anesthesia: The type and duration of anesthesia used during the surgery can significantly impact the cost, with general anesthesia typically required​​.
  • Post-Surgery Medications and Follow-Up Care: Post-surgery care, including medications and follow-up visits, adds to the overall expense and is crucial for ensuring successful recovery and managing complications​.
  • Complications and Additional Treatments: Additional treatments and possibly more surgeries may be required if complications arise during or after surgery, significantly increasing the cost.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Cherry Eye Surgery?

Pet insurance coverage for cherry eye surgery varies by policy and provider. Generally, most pet insurance plans cover surgeries for conditions like cherry eye, but important details need to be considered.

Hereditary and Congenital Conditions

Many comprehensive pet insurance policies cover hereditary and congenital conditions, including cherry eye. For example, Lemonade Pet Insurance typically covers the cost of cherry eye surgery, excluding deductibles and co-insurance, if the policy is in place before any symptoms appear​.

MetLife Pet Insurance also covers cherry eye surgery under policies that include hereditary conditions, advising pet owners to check for any exclusions related to pre-existing conditions​​.

Pre-Existing Conditions

Most pet insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. If your pet is diagnosed with cherry eye before you purchase the policy or shows symptoms during the waiting period, the surgery might not be covered​​.

How Can I Save Money On Cherry Eye Surgery?

Saving money on cherry eye surgery for your dog can be achieved through several strategies.

First, consider getting pet insurance that covers hereditary and congenital conditions, as this can significantly offset the cost. Many comprehensive pet insurance plans will cover the surgery after deductibles and co-insurance, potentially saving you hundreds to thousands of dollars. It’s important to enroll your pet in insurance early to avoid issues with pre-existing condition exclusions.

Another way to save is by exploring financing options or payment plans offered by veterinary clinics. Some clinics offer interest-free payment plans or financing options that can help you manage the cost over time. Additionally, look for veterinary schools that might offer discounted rates for procedures performed by supervised students.

What Breeds Are Typically Affected By Cherry Eye?

Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to developing cherry eye due to genetic predispositions and anatomical features. The breeds most commonly associated with cherry eye include:

Brachycephalic Breeds

These breeds have shorter skulls and flatter faces, which can contribute to the prolapse of the tear gland in the third eyelid.

  1. English Bulldogs
  2. French Bulldogs
  3. American Bulldogs
  4. Boston Terriers
  5. Pugs
  6. Shih Tzus
  7. Pekingese
  8. Lhasa Apsos

Sporting Breeds

These breeds are often prone to cherry eye due to genetic factors.

  1. Beagles
  2. Cocker Spaniels
  3. Bloodhounds
  4. Neapolitan Mastiffs

Other Affected Breeds

While the above categories cover many of the commonly affected breeds, other breeds can also develop cherry eye.

  1. Basset Hounds
  2. Shar-Peis
  3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

These breeds are more likely to experience cherry eye because they have weaker connective tissues supporting the tear gland in their third eyelid. Regular veterinary check-ups can help in early detection and treatment​.

Is Surgery Required For Cherry Eye?

Surgery is typically required to correct cherry eye in dogs once it develops. Non-surgical treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medications and manual repositioning, are often temporary and do not provide a permanent solution​. Surgery is necessary to properly reposition the prolapsed gland and secure it, ensuring it remains functional and reducing the risk of chronic dry eye and recurrent infections​​.

Without surgical intervention, the condition can lead to further complications, such as persistent eye irritation and damage to the tear-producing gland​. Therefore, prompt surgical treatment is generally recommended to address cherry eye effectively.

What Happens If Cherry Eye Is Left Untreated?

If cherry eye is left untreated, it can lead to chronic dry eye, as the prolapsed gland produces a significant portion of the tear film necessary for eye lubrication​​. This condition can cause persistent eye irritation and discomfort, leading to excessive scratching or rubbing, which increases the risk of secondary infections and further eye damage​.

Over time, untreated cherry eye can also result in more severe complications, such as corneal ulcers and vision impairment​. Therefore, addressing cherry eye promptly through surgical intervention is crucial to prevent these serious health issues.

How Can I Prevent Cherry Eye?

Preventing cherry eye can be challenging, as the condition is often linked to genetic factors and certain breeds’ predispositions. There is no guaranteed way to prevent cherry eye entirely, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk and ensure your dog’s overall eye health.

  1. Regular Veterinary Check-Ups: Regular visits to the vet can help detect early signs of eye problems, including cherry eye. Early detection can allow for prompt treatment, which might prevent the condition from worsening​.
  2. Breed Awareness: If you own a breed that is predisposed to cherry eye (e.g., Bulldogs, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels), be extra vigilant about monitoring their eye health. Knowing the risks can help you take proactive steps to manage their health​.
  3. Avoiding Trauma: Protect your dog’s eyes from injuries or trauma, as these can contribute to the development of cherry eye. Be cautious during playtime and avoid situations where your dog might injure their eyes​.
  4. Good Hygiene: Keeping your dog’s face clean can help prevent infections and other eye problems that might exacerbate conditions like cherry eye. Regular grooming and cleaning around the eyes can be beneficial​.

While these steps can help reduce the risk, it’s important to note that due to the genetic nature of cherry eye, it cannot be completely prevented. If your dog shows signs of cherry eye, consult your veterinarian for the best course of action.


How much does a vet charge to fix a Cherry Eye?

A vet typically charges between $300 and $2,500 to fix cherry eye, depending on factors such as the location, the veterinarian’s experience, and the specific surgical technique used​ .

What is the success rate of Cherry Eye surgery?

The success rate of cherry eye surgery is generally high, with most procedures successfully repositioning the gland. However, the exact success rate can vary based on the surgical method and the individual case​.

Is Cherry Eye surgery for dogs worth it?

Yes, cherry eye surgery is worth it. It prevents complications such as chronic dry eye, infections, and potential vision loss, ensuring your dog’s long-term eye health and comfort​.

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