When we think of dog eyes, we think of those wide brown eyes that look right back at us. So, it might be a bit of a surprise to learn that blue, amber or even green eyes can show up in dogs.
Many genetic factors can cause these eye colors to appear. For instance, the Merle gene, on the 10th dog chromosome, can change eye and coat color due to reduced eumelanin. This is what can produce dog breeds with green eyes.
So, can dogs have green eyes? The answer is yes, thanks to the Merle gene. This is how you can end up with green-eyed dogs!
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How rare are dogs with green eyes?
Those are very rare.
Most dog breeds with green eyes are mixes, probably apart from American Pit Bull Terrier.
For certain breeds, eye color inheritance is so complex that it is difficult to precisely breed a dog with the exact amount of iris pigment to give green eyes.
It’s either a mistake or a fluke when it happens! That’s just how hard it can be to raise puppies with green eyes. In some cases, green eyes at the birth change to an amber color as the puppy matures and more pigment is produced.
Why dog’s eyes can look green?
The color of the dog’s eyes is purely hereditary. Like most of the other physical characteristics a dog is born with, genes influence the appearance of a dog.
Most dogs have brown eyes because they all have a gene that produces a brown pigment called eumelanin.
When there are blue, amber, or green-eyed dogs, it is because there have been some different genetic factors at play. E.g., the Merle gene changes the color of the dog’s fur and the color of the eye. It works by producing patches that result from reduced eumelanin.
It is usual for dogs with the Merle gene to have mottled color patches in their coat. The same gene is responsible for the dapple effect in dachshunds.
Which dog breeds have green eyes?
The beautiful patterns created by the merle gene can be seen in several different dog breeds.
That includes Dachshunds, Collies, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, Great Danes, American Pit Bull Terrier, Pomeranian Huskies, and more. Dogs with the Merle gene can have blue, amber, and occasionally, but very rarely, they have puppies with green eyes.
If a puppy has green eyes, will it stay green?
It’s not uncommon for your puppy’s eyes to change as they grow. Although you may be excited to bring home a green or blue-eyed dog, you will find that their eyes will shift to amber as they mature.
The explanation behind this phenomenon is the amount of pigment, or eumelanin, in your rising dog’s eyes. Dogs with a lot of eumelanin in their irises are going to have brown eyes. Decreased pigment levels contribute to amber eyes, while green eyes have only a trace amount of eumelanin, while blue eyes have none.
Black eyes appear blue, reflecting light in almost the same way as the sky or the ocean.
Health Issues Associated with the Merle Gene
Dog breeds with green eyes which carry the Merle gene can be prone to many health conditions, especially their eyes and ears. E.g., mild to severe deafness can occur in these dogs.
Merle dogs’ hearing issues are caused because the cells that produce eumelanin (called melanocytes) also play a vital role in the inner ear structure.
We don’t know why, but without these cells, sound waves don’t activate the middle and inner ears of dogs properly, resulting in total or partial deafness.
Dogs with the Merle gene also have less pigmentation in the eye’s iris that can impair their eyesight and cause other vision problems. E.g., glaucoma, poor refraction ability within the eye, and colobomas.
Why do my dog’s eyes reflect green at night?
There’s a moment when almost any dog would have green eyes at night. Dogs’ eyes shine a ghostly green when you shine a light on them in the dark!
But why do the eyes of the dogs give off a green reflection? Unlike humans, dogs and other nocturnal species have a light-reflecting surface at the back of their eyes called the tapetum lucidum.
It acts like a mirror, projecting the light on the eye cells from outside the eye, which interprets it into images. This maximizes the use of light and enhances the vision of animals active at night or dawn.
Credits: thanks for the cover photo to Canva.
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