There is something so touching in dog’s eyes. Whenever they try to pass on that “puppy eyes”, most of us can’t resist that cuteness and become tempted to do everything a dog wants. As if their hazel, brown warm eyes weren’t enough, dog genes have decided to really melt our hearts and reward some dogs with stunning, piercing blue eyes. Blue eyed dogs are really rare, which is why they are becoming more and more on demand worldwide.
As much as puppy eyes make us weak in our knees, blue eyes in dogs definitely make us incapable of removing sight from them. But, as you may heard, some people say that dogs with blue eyes are more susceptible to developing certain health conditions than dogs with brown eyes. Some even say that blue-eyed dogs are always deaf. Is there any scientific evidence of these beliefs, or are these purely just myths that have been going around for ages?
Today, we’re discovering how blue eyes occur in dogs, what blue eyes in dogs mean, are these dogs really affected by their eye color and what are the dog breeds in which blue eyes occur most often.
Why Dogs Have Blue Eyes?
Brown eyes are the most common eye color in dogs. On the other hand, having one or both blue eyes is a trait few dogs have in the canine world. This rare phenomenon got scientists and dog lovers curious and became an object of scientific research and worldwide interest.
Since brown eyes usually prevail among dogs, scientists looked for ways to find out where the blue eye color came from in some dogs. Namely, there are different reasons that could make dog’s eyes blue-colored, and the most important include: the merle gene, lack of pigment, rare blue eye gene, and albinism.
1. Lack Of Pigment
Eye color is determined by two things: the pigmentation of the iris, and the scattering of light by the stroma of the iris. The pigment that regulates a dog’s eye color, also known as melanin, is located on the back and front of a dog’s iris. Depending on the cellular density of the stroma, as well as the concentration of melanin in the iris, dog eyes can vary in shades of brown.
When an iris lacks this pigment, the eyes appear blue or green thanks to the Tyndall scattering of light in the stroma. This practically means that, in this case, blue eyes are blue, for the same reason the sky appears blue to us – the scattering of light. Since there isn’t a green or blue pigment that would determine the eye color, blue eyes in dogs (and humans) can often change color when lighting conditions are modified.
This is exactly the reason why albino dogs often have blue eyes too. Simply put, lack of pigment in the eye area, usually leads to a blue eye color.
So, if a dog has a patch of white fur over one or both eyes, chances are that he will be awarded with blue eyes. However, this isn’t a rule. It was only found that dogs can have blue eyes for the same reason they have white fur – AKA lack of pigment.
But what happens with dogs that don’t have areas of white fur around their eyes, but still have blue eyes, such as Border Collies? How come they have blue eyes? Science has the answer.
2. Blue Eye Gene
In order to find the reason why dogs have blue eyes, researches have conducted a study which tested more than 6,000 dogs and analyzed their DNA. What they found out was that the ‘culprit’ of blue puppy blues in Siberian huskies is a mutation of the gene known as ALX4.
Huskies and Border Collies have a dominant blue eye gene, while other breeds such as Corgis or Beagles inherit blue eye color due to a recessive blue eye gene marker.
This means that Huskies might have blue eyes if one of their two parents has blue eyes, while a Corgi will inherit the same trait if both parents have the mutated gene.
3. The Merle Gene
Merle is a coat pattern that comes in different colors. The merle gene affects the coat color, eye color and the skin pigment. Usually, dogs with this rare gene have a coat of mottled patches of color and have multiple colored fur.
Just like the blue eye gene in Huskies, the merle gene is dominant too – meaning that a merle-colored parent would pass the merle gene to his offspring. However, if both parents have the merle gene, there is a 25% chance that puppies can be born as double Merles which has serious consequences on the health of newborns. The double-merle litter can develop health conditions linked to the merle coloration such as merle ocular dysgenesis, blindness or deafness.
This is why breeding merle to merle is never recommended and is actually strongly unadvised.
Although merle coat coloration is very unique and often dog breeders hope to have this gene among their dogs, it is extremely important to pay attention to whom merle dogs are bred with. For instance, some dogs may have the merle gene without showing the prevailing coloration found in merle dogs, and can pass on the gene to the offspring. In these cases, the best thing is to rely on DNA tests and their detailed analysis.
Dog Breeds Most Likely To Have Blue Eyes
1. Siberian Husky With Blue Eyes
Siberian Huskies are usually the first dogs to come to mind when thinking about dogs with blue eyes. This is because the blue eye gene is quite common and active among them, and it’s the only breed where blue eyes don’t come as a great surprise.
As previously mentioned, the researchers found that the development of blue eyes is due to a DNA molecule called canine chromosome 18, located near the ALX4 gene.
2. Border Collie With Blue Eyes
Border Collies are known as one of the most intelligent dog breeds out there which is often the number 1 reason people choose them over other dog breeds. However, they are so adored because of their appearance too. They are elegant, graceful and really strong.
Collies are also among the rare dog breeds that can have blue eyes. The combination of their smooth, long fur, beautifully shaped muzzle and piercing blue eyes, is such a rare combination, that it’s no wonder that Collie puppies that retain the blue eye color become the real superstars of their neighborhoods.
3. Australian Shepherd With Blue Eyes
Somehow, Australian Shepherds are often carriers of the Merle gene that causes blue eyes in dogs. These Merle Aussies have a unique appearance and a multicolored coat that makes them stand out.
However, because of the merle gene, it is crucial to pay attention to how these dogs are bred between them.
4. Dachshund With Blue Eyes
The German “badger dog”, commonly known as Dachshund, is quite an interesting dog itself. They are very courageous and smart, and are often used in art and photography for their unique appearance.
However, that’s not all when it comes to the Dachshund’s looks. These pups can come in a variety of coat colors: from red, black, chocolate, brindled, sable, and so on. When a Dachshund comes with merle coat coloration, he is called Dapple Dachshund. Dapple Dachshunds sometimes have blue eyes, which can lead to several health defects, and well as cost these dogs from being accepted as standard dogs by their kennel associations. Namely, blue eyes are seen as a “undesirable” trait in Dachshunds.
5. Weimaraner With Blue Eyes
This noble, German hunting dog is not only known for his shiny gray coat and his incredible sense of smell. The elegant Weimaraner usually has brown or amber eyes, but sometimes they can retain the puppy blue color in the older ages too.
However their eye color turns out to be, these dogs make great companions that will easily be the center of attention wherever you go.
6. Cardigan Welsh Corgi With Blue Eyes
Shades of red, sable, brindle, as well as black with or without a blue merle, are considered as the standard Cardigan Welsh Corgi colors. However, Corgis come in plenty other colors too, but not all of them are accepted by the Corgi kennel associations.
When they have a blue merle, Corgis can have one or both eyes in blue shade colors. However, having one or both blue eyes in combination with any other coat color other than blue merle is considered a disqualification.
7. Alaskan Klee Kai With Blue Eyes
The Alaskan Klee Kai, also known as the “mini husky” is a small sized dogs that has a coat similar to their bigger relatives – Alaskan and Siberian Huskies.
They remain those small, cute creatures throughout their entire life, and can have a puppy look even when they are older. What makes the Alaskan Klee Kai even more unique is the occurrence of blue colored eyes.
Blue Eyed Dogs – FAQ
Are Blue Eyes In A Dog Bad?
Blue eyes in dogs are usually considered as completely normal and there are no linked health problems to them. However, there is just one particular scenario in which blue eyes aren’t so safe as they normally are. The only situation when blue eye color might be problematic, is with Double Merle dogs that have a higher chance of exhibiting serious health problems like blindness or deafness.
Also, if your dog’s eyes have always been brown, and they are starting to turn blue gradually, this might be a sign of an eye disease such as Cataract or Glaucoma. In this case, you should visit your vet ASAP in order to find the most efficient remedy to the eye disease that might result in blindness.
Do All Puppies Have Blue Eyes?
Believe it or not, but all puppies are born blue-eyed. The shades of the blue can vary from the pure blue, to blue with flecks of grey and green. And while most puppies will have their eye color changed over time, some dogs retain their blue eyes.
However, if your puppy is younger than 10 weeks of age, chances are that his eye color will change. It is usually around this age that puppies start having the “real” color of their eyes.