Why Do Some Dogs Have Different-Colored Eyes?

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Most dogs have two matching eyes, but your pooch may be a bit different! Instead of having two brown eyes, one might be brown and the other blue. In most cases, thankfully, that one blue eye isn't a cause for concern. One thing's for sure regardless of cause -- having two differently-colored eyes gives your puppy quite the fascinating mug!


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When a pup has two different colored eyes, it's called heterochromia. This literally means two different colors. While it can occur in humans, it's not very common. It's much more common in dogs, cats and horses. The distribution of melanin in the iris determines eye color. More melanin means he'll have a darker eye, like brown. Less melanin results in green or blue eyes.

Heterochromia can also cause one eye to lack melanin altogether. When his two eyes have different amounts of melanin, they'll be two different colors. The most common combinations include brown, blue and white.



Heterochromia is an inherited disorder. This means he got the genes from his mom and dad. Some diseases or an injury to your puppy's eye can cause it to change color and lead him to have two different colored peepers. If he's had the two different colors since he was born, the cause is most likely genetic.


Some breeds are more likely to have two different colored eyes. Australian sheepdogs, Siberian huskies, American foxhounds, Alaskan malamutes and shih tzus are all more likely to have one blue eye. In dalmatians, having one or both eyes being blue is linked to deafness.


Better Safe Than Sorry

In most cases, heterochromia isn't indicative of an underlying disease. However, since heterochromia can be a result of a disease like glaucoma, your pup should have his eyes checked out by his vet. Heterochromia has been linked to eye disorders such as cataracts, retinal dysplasia or an underdeveloped optic nerve. Let your vet know if Max has had the color anomaly since he was a puppy, or if it developed recently. She'll also need to know if Max has any other symptoms, like swelling or redness in his eyes that could indicate another disorder. Always consult with a qualified veterinarian about the health and welfare of your pet. If Max gets a clean bill of health, relax and enjoy your pup's unique gaze.


By Melissa Schindler


Go Pets America: Heterochromia Irides
University of Maryland Medical Center: Heterochromia
Veterinary Medical Specialization: Bridging Science and Medicine; W. Jean Dodds

About the Author
Melissa Schindler has been writing professionally since 2010. She writes about pets, animals, technology and parenting for various websites. Also a fiction writer, she is author of "Houston After Dark." She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.