Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why Do Some Pets Have Different Colored Eyes?

Cat with heterochromia iridum.
Photo via Laura
I'm sure you're seen pictures of cats or dogs with gorgeous colored eyes. You know, the ones with one blue eye and one green eye and whatnot. Have you ever actually asked why some pets have different colored eyes? It's a condition called heterochromia iridum. In most cases, it's just genetic and isn't harmful to the pet.

Heterochromia occurs when melanin is not distributed equally among both of the irises. Melanin is what gives color pigment to an animal's skin, fur, and their eyes. Many animals have blue eyes when they are babies. As they grow older, melanin will begin to distribute in their irises. This is the time when an animal will show signs of having heterochromia.


Cats With Different Colored Eyes

Most cats with different colored eyes are white although heterochromia could occur in any cat. There are certain cat breeds that are more prone to having different colored eyes than others. Some examples are the Turkish Van and Angora cat breeds. 

Since white cats lack melanin because their fur is white, they are more likely to have different colored eyes than other types of cats. In most cases, one eye will be blue and the other will be green. The blue eye is the one that is lacking the melanin. 

Dogs With Heterochromia

There are also dogs that have different colored eyes. Breeds like the Australian Shepard, Dalmation, Catahoula Leopard Dog, and Husky are very commonly seen with different colored eyes. I have personally seen many other breeds with heterochromia including Shelties, Boston Terriers, Welsh Corgis, Great Danes, Dachsunds, Pit Bulls, and others. 

Dog with heterochromia.
Photo via xlibber

Some dogs with different colored eyes may have partial heterochromia. This means that one eye is two different colors. Commonly, half of the eye will be brown while the other half is blue. 

Should I Be Concerned if My Pet Has Different Colored Eyes?

Generally speaking, no - there is no reason to be concerned or alarmed as the condition is genetic most of the time. Some people find this look desirable and will choose their pet based on this unique feature. Others may find it weird and think something is wrong with an animal that has different colored eyes. Pets with heterochromia should be able to see just as well as pets with "normal" eyes. 

Photo via Dan DeLuca

Have you ever seen an animal with different colored eyes? What did you think?

42 comments:

  1. Wow that was a great information - Thanks. Our Huskies had both different eyes - and I had no clue why (shame on me).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not shame on you Easy! Now you know :)

      Delete
  2. We think animals with different coloured eyes are cute. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

    ReplyDelete
  3. Golden Thanks for this information. It's very good to know. It's not obvious but my one eye have some kind of discoloration, due to my sight. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sugar. Some pets get a sort of cloudy appearance in their eyes as they age. It's not cataracts but can affect their depth perception.

      Delete
  4. How fascinating! I did not know this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I prefer to think that cats with different colored eyes are lucky! You might like this book that I reviewed on Cat Chat....here is the link to the review: http://opcatchat.blogspot.com/2012/10/book-review-enchanting-lily-by-anjali.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They probably are! will have to check it out - thank you Caren :)

      Delete
  6. If you had posted this last week, *I* would have looked like a smarty-pants. :-)
    We were at an adoption event and one puppy had two different colored eyes, someone asked me if it meant anything or if they should be worried about it. I said no, but had I used a fancy word like heterochromia I would have blown them away!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw man! Well if it ever comes up in the future now you know! I was reading that there are a lot of people who are afraid to adopt pets like that because they think there is something wrong with them. I guess that had never really dawned on me before...

      Delete
  7. That really is good information. I had an Aussie that had different colored eyes. I guess a lot of dogs and cats do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My grandpa has a merle sheltie with eyes like this. I think it's a pretty striking look :)

      Delete
  8. The blue merle collie often has two different colored eyes. I think cats with the two eye colors are beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yea, seems like merle colors are more prone too. My grandfather has a blue merle sheltie that has this.

      Delete
  9. Cool! I did not know any of that but always wondered about it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. thats a great information ! thanks for this post !

    ReplyDelete
  11. That's interesting! I've seen a couple with different colors for the different eyes but never with one eye being two colors.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Awesome info Ann. I've often admired animals with different colored eyes and in deed wondered why! Very cool!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are people like this too. I just learned that Mila Kunis has two different colored eyes when I was looking at pictures.

      Delete
  13. I don't think I have ever seen a cat with different eyes, but quite a few dogs! Interesting info!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cats seem rarer than the dogs. I may have seen some cats working at the vet hospital before, but not too many.

      Delete
  14. When mom worked at the shelter she noticed very strange thing; kitties with different colored eyes were very popular, but dogs with different colored eyes were not. Isn't that weird?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. I guess I could see people doing that. It is a little weird though.

      Delete
  15. And of course, if the melanin is absent in a cat's ear, then ion balance cannot be achieved, thus...deafness! We love this science stuff :-) great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (We had more fun writing about it, in our post last year - of course our mommy had to go all geeky and title it "white cats,Star Trek & Deafness" MOL!)

      Delete
    2. Lol - I've met a big white kitty with blue eyes who was deaf. He was really cool and I guess since he was deaf, he meowed REALLY loud! It was cute :)

      Delete
    3. MOL! (hey we have a computer again - WOOT!) and Maxie meows with this teeeeeensy weird voice cuz he couldn't hear himself either!

      Delete
  16. Interesting. I have seen dogs but no cats with different colored eyes.

    ReplyDelete
  17. my friend lady has a brown/blue eye. Kinda freaks me out BOL

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh wow! Thanks for sharing, we had no idea!
    Purrs

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for writing about this! One of our dachshunds is a dapple, and she happens to have one brown eye and one blue eye. I'd seen plenty of dogs with different colored eyes before we had her, so it was nothing new. But her brown eye has a spot of blue, and her blue eye is partially brown - THAT I hadn't seen before. I'm so glad I know the name of it now! Like Debra said, I can sound like a big ol' smartypants when people ask now. To me, it's common enough that I thought everyone was familiar with it, even if they didn't know the name (like me). But we still run into people who say things like, "Wow! I've never seen that before!" and they often ask if she's blind in her blue eye (which she isn't).
    Although... lol... I just thought of something... sometimes when you use a clinical term with folks, they automatically associate it with being something bad. I can just hear it now:
    Them: "What's up with her eyes?"
    Me: "Oh, she has heterochromia... it's.. " (they interrupt the explanation)
    Them: "Awww, that's so sad!"
    Me: "No, it's not sad... it's fine... she can actually see just fi... " (another interruption)
    Them: "Awww... "
    Me: "Sigh..."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's also more common in the dapple and merle colorations of dogs, like yours. I can totally see that conversation happening! lol Maybe start off with "It's normal" haha...

      Delete
  20. Whoa! I thought they were called David Bowie cats. MOL! When the peeps got me, I had lovely amber eyes. Now they're stunning green.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Enjoyed this post very interesting. You should check out Cats&Co site also they are informative as well xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by and the tip kitties :)

      Delete
  22. Interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  23. We only have seen it on the picture.. except of David Bowie... and it looks awesome :)

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...