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Heterochromia in Dogs

Bernedoodle with one blue and one brown eye
Complete heterochromia that is genetic.

What is Heterochromia?

Heterochromia is a fascinating genetic trait where an individual, in this case, a dog, has two different colored eyes.

Types of Heterochromia

There are three types of heterochromia. Complete heterochromia means each eye is a completely different color, like one blue and one brown. Sectoral heterochromia shows a segment of one eye with a different color. Lastly, central heterochromia appears as spikes of different colors radiating from the pupil.

Bernedoodle camping in the desert
Sectoral heterochromia shows up with a segment of brown in the right eye.

Causes of Heterochromia in Dogs

This intriguing eye color variation often results from genetics, meaning it's inherited. Dogs can sometimes show heterochromia when they age. This could indicate a health issue. Most dogs with genetic heterochromia are perfectly healthy, simply sporting a unique and eye-catching look.

A young girl hugging a white dog.
The blue eye spots here are a result of aging.

Breeds Prone to Heterochromia

Certain breeds are more likely to display heterochromia. Notable examples include Siberian Huskies, Australian Shepherds, and the spotted Dalmatians, often seen with this trait.

Heterochromia can also piggy back on with the Merle trait. Merle dilutes a dog's coat and can also dilute the eyes which can cause heterochromia or blue eyes. Merle dogs can still have brown eyes.

Health Implications

Heterochromia is usually a cosmetic feature with no health concerns. However, if a dog develops heterochromia later in life, it's advisable to consult a veterinarian, as it could be a sign of an underlying health issue.

Myths and Superstitions

A dog with one brown and one blue eye holding a 4-leaf clover in their mouth
Animals with heterochromia bring good luck according to some myths

Heterochromia has fascinated people for centuries, giving rise to various myths and superstitions across different cultures. They tend to emphasize how heterochromia can bring good luck.

  1. Spiritual Significance: In some cultures, heterochromia is believed to endow animals and humans with spiritual sight or abilities. Dogs with heterochromia, for example, are sometimes thought to have the ability to see both heaven and earth.

  2. Good Luck Charm: In certain folklore, animals with heterochromia are considered lucky or magical. The presence of two different colored eyes is sometimes seen as a symbol of good fortune or an omen of positive events.

  3. Witch's Familiar: In European folklore, cats (and sometimes dogs) with heterochromia were often associated with witches and magic. These animals, particularly black cats with one blue eye, were thought to be familiars of witches or to possess mystical powers themselves.

  4. Guardians Against Evil Spirits: In some Eastern cultures, heterochromia is believed to grant the ability to protect against evil spirits or bad luck, acting as a natural talisman.

  5. Dual Nature or Insight: Heterochromia is sometimes interpreted as a sign of a dual nature or insight into different worlds or realms of understanding, suggesting a deeper, possibly mystical, understanding of the world.

  6. Indigenous Beliefs: Among certain indigenous peoples, animals with heterochromia are sometimes revered and believed to be sacred or possess extraordinary abilities.

Caring for a Dog with Heterochromia

If you get a dog with heterochromia or blue eyes, make sure to follow up with a vet to evaluate their eyesight. In most cases the dog's eyesight will be completely fine but in the rare case of a dog with the double merle gene or some breeds that normally don't carry blue eyes then it could be a sign of eye issues.

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