Heterochromia in Dogs: Why Your Dog Has Different Colored Eyes

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Though it seems unique, the phenomenon of dogs with two different colored eyes is actually fairly common among certain breeds. Read on to learn what causes heterochromia in dogs and whether it can cause health issues.

Causes of Heterochromia in Dogs

beagle-with-different-colored-eyes-SWHeterochromia is the scientific term for eyes that are two different colors. It not only occurs in dogs but also affects cats, horses and occasionally even people. Heterochromia is caused by a lack of the pigment melanin in all or part of one eye. In dogs with heterochromia, the lack of melanin causes one of their eyes to appear blue or bluish-white.

Heterochromia in dogs is often hereditary, meaning it is passed through their genetic makeup. But it can also be acquired later in life as the result of an eye injury or a health condition, points out Dogster. While hereditary heterochromia is usually nothing to worry about, if you ever notice either of your dog's eyes changing color, you should contact your veterinarian and get your pup's eyes checked.

Types of Heterochromia

Heterochromia shows up in the following three ways:

  • Heterochromia iridis: Also known as complete heterochromia, this is when one eye is an entirely different color from the other one.
  • Sectoral heterochromia: This occurs when the iris is only partially blue.
  • Central heterochromia: With this type of heterochromia, the blue coloring radiates out from the pupil, mixing with another color in a spiked pattern.

Dogs With Different Colored Eyes

Portrait of a Siberian husky in the park with different colored eyes.Heterochromia is most common among these breeds:

The color and pattern of a dog's coat appear to have an influence on how heterochromia manifests in dogs, according to Dogster. Generally, heterochromia is more common in dogs with dappled, merle or white coloring around their heads. Heterochromia iridis occurs most frequently in huskies, dalmatians, and Australian shepherds and cattle dogs. The other breeds are more prone to the other two types of heterochromia.

Do Dogs With Heterochromia Have Health Problems?

While it's commonly believed that different colored eyes in dogs is a sign of blindness or vision problems, dogs with hereditary heterochromia have normal vision. Another fairly common belief is that dogs with heterochromia have hearing problems. This is untrue in the vast majority of cases, though Dogster points out that dalmatians with heterochromia do have a higher prevalence of deafness.

As mentioned previously, acquired heterochromia can result from an eye injury or a health condition. Acquired heterochromia can also be similar in appearance to several eye conditions, including cataracts and glaucoma, so it's important to have your dog checked by a vet if you notice their eyes changing color.

Most dogs with heterochromia don't have any related health problems — they just have a more unique set of peepers than other pups!

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover, freelance writer and novelist. She currently lives in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching a wide array of wild animals in her backyard while drinking her morning coffee.