Nictitante membrane or third eyelid in dogs

The third eyelid or nictitating membrane protects the eyes of our dogs, just like in cats, but does not exist in human eyes. The main function is to protect the eyes against external aggressions or foreign bodies trying to enter it. We humans, unlike other animals, have finger to wipe any particle that enters our eyes and why we do not need this anatomical structure.

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In Perito Animal we will not only explain to you the existence of this structure, but also which are the most common diseases or problems of the nictitating membrane or third eyelid in dogs . We will review the symptoms and solutions for each case.

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Third eyelid in dog – what is it?

As we mentioned in the introduction, we find the third eyelid in the eyes of dogs and cats. As in the other eyelids, it has a lacrimal gland that hydrates it, also known as Harder’s gland. This can suffer a very common pathology in certain breeds, also known as “cherry eye”. This prolapse of the third eyelid or cherry eye is more frequent in races such as chihuahua, English bulldog, boxer, cocker spanish. The third eyelid in shihtzu is also one of the most common diseases in this breed. However, it can happen in any breed, being common in younger dogs.

Structurally speaking, the membrane is a connective tissue hydrated by the aforementioned gland. Usually not seen, but may appear when the eye is in danger. There are breeds that may have a slight pigmentation on the third eyelid, something that is completely normal. However, it does not have skin or skin that cover it. It has no muscles and is in the medial angle (near the nose and under the lower eyelid) and appears only when it is strictly necessary as if it were a windscreen wiper of a car. As such, the function of this structure begins when the eye feels attacked as a reflex act and when the danger disappears, it returns to its normal position, under the lower eyelid.

Advantages of the third eyelid in dogs

The main advantages of this membrane are protection, eliminating foreign bodies that can injure the eye, avoiding consequences such as pain, ulcers, wounds and other injuries in the eyeball. It also gives hydration to the eye thanks to its gland which contributes about 30% to the formation of tears and the lymphatic follicles help fight infectious processes , since it is exposed when the eye is injured and until it is fully healed.

So when we see a white or pinkish film covering one or both eyes of the dog, we should not be alarmed, it may simply be the third eyelid trying to eliminate an eye attacker. We should always keep in mind that it returns to its place in less than 6 hours , so we should consult a specialist if this does not happen.

Prolapse of the third eyelid in dogs

Although we have already briefly mentioned this pathology in the first section, as well as the breeds most likely to develop it, it is important to refer back and deepen. It is important to note that although this is not an emergency, this situation needs veterinary attention.

As we have already mentioned, prolapse is produced when the membrane is visible , without returning to its usual place. The causes may be genetic or weakness of the tissues by which it is composed. This is one of the most common problems in veterinary ophthalmology, which causes no pain in the dog but which can cause other problems such as side effects such as conjunctivitis and dry eyes.

There is no treatment for the nictitating membrane in drug-based puppies . The solution is surgical with a small suture of the gland so that it returns to its place. Generally, removal of the gland is not recommended since we would lose a large part of the hydration source of the animal’s eye.

This article is purely informative, in we do not have the capacity to prescribe veterinary treatments nor to make any type of diagnosis. We suggest you bring your pet to the veterinarian in case of any type of condition or malaise.

If you want to read more articles that might be updated daily, please visit our Ocular Problems section .

    Emily Harris

    Hi Guys, Girls, and Cats:-pI am Emily Harris, and you can see in above pic. She loves me I swear. I saved her from a dumpster a few weeks back.

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