English Bulldog Eye Problems

Smiling English bulldog on grass field.
Smiling English bulldog on grass field. (Image: mjohanson/iStock/Getty Images)

The English bulldog is a great dog, but a few of his appealing physical features have potential health ramifications. When it comes to his peepers, the English bulldog has a variety of potential eye problems, including cherry eye, entropion and cataracts. If you see your guy squint or rub his eyes, it’s wise to take him to the vet to be sure nothing’s amiss.

Prolapsed Gland of the Third Eyelid, or Cherry Eye

People make do with two eyelids -- the upper and lower lids -- per eye, but a dog has three eyelids per eye. The third eyelid is in the corner of his eye toward his nose, under the lower eyelid. When the gland under the third eyelid is swollen, it shows as a little pink bubble on the inside corner of his eye, resembling a cherry. Cherry eye can be accompanied by irritation and swelling. It’s quite common in English bulldogs, particularly in puppies younger than 8 weeks. Often it happens on its own, but occasionally, trauma to the head or eye -- perhaps your pup ran into something -- can trigger cherry eye. Treatment may include topical medication and manual return of the gland to its rightful position, by hand. A severe case of cherry eye requires surgery to remove or replace to entire gland.

Rolling Eyelids, or Entropion

Sometimes an English bulldog’s eyelid will roll inward, irritating his eyeball as the eyelashes rub against it. Called entropion, the condition leads to squinting, excess tearing and eye ulcers. Untreated, it can lead to permanent vision damage. Surgery does the job as a section of skin is removed from the eyelid to keep it from rolling inward. Though more than one surgery may be necessary, the prognosis for entropion is favorable, with most bulldogs enjoying comfortable, normal lives. Generally, the vet will wait until the dog has reached his adult size before performing the surgery. If corneal scarring has occurred before the surgery, the dog may have some permanent vision defects.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, or Dry Eye

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is a mouthful, so you can call it dry eye. It's an inflammation of the cornea and its surrounding tissues. The tissues are inflamed because they’re dry, and they’re dry because the tear gland isn’t producing enough tears. Though your dog may not cry, tears should lubricate his eyes to keep them moist and healthy. Signs of dry eye include red, irritated and painful eyes, squinting, excessive blinking and keeping the eyes closed. Often a thick, yellowish discharge or crust around the eye is present as well. Dry eye requires lifelong treatment with ophthalmic medication to stimulate tear production and replace the tear film to protect the cornea. Some dogs may need anti-inflammatories or topical antibiotics in addition to ophthalmic medicine.

Cataracts and Nuclear Sclerosis

The English bulldog is also prone to cataracts, opacity of the eye's lenses that results in blurry vision. Though it’s possible for a dog to develop cataracts in old age or from trauma, inherited cataracts are more common. The classic sign of cataracts is cloudy or blue-gray eyes, also common with nuclear sclerosis, a cloudy lens condition among older dogs. Nuclear sclerosis isn’t as great a threat to vision as cataracts. Any cloudy appearance in a dog’s eyes should prompt a visit to the vet, as cataracts can become thicker, potentially leading to blindness. Untreated cataracts can lead to glaucoma, as well as intense, painful eye inflammation. Surgery to replace the lenses is usually the treatment of choice.

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