Friday, March 9, 2012

Heterochromia and Hip Dysplasia


There are three dogs at the shelter that have one blue eye and one dark eye, which is called complete heterochromia. It's very rare for us to even get one dog that has that it and now we have three! So of course I had to write about it and get some more info on what it really is. Heterochromia is the result of either lack or excess of the pigment melanin in the animal's hair and skin. It's believed to be inherited and carried in the genes in the animal's family line.

The eye that is blue is the one where there is little to no melanin while the darker eye has a higher concentration of melanin. There is also partial and/or sectoral heterochromia, where part of one iris of an eye has two different colors (more uncommon). Heterochromia is seen in dogs, cats, horses, and other animals (such as cattle and ferrets). It is more common in some breeds than in others, such as Siberian Huskies, Australian Shepherds, Collies, and Dalmations. Same goes for cats! Turkish Vans and Japanese Bobtails are more prone to it and in horses, those with a pinto coloring are also. The pigment melanin is also connected to hair color, so many animals with the split eye color tend to have a lighter coat coloring. Some can have leucism, which is a condition of reduced skin pigmentation (not albinism) and not just of melanin.

Also, those with the merle coat gene are more likely to have sectoral heterochromia versus the complete condition. Those dogs who are homozygous for the merle gene, or have two copies for the gene, have a higher chance of being born deaf. Siberian huskies on the other hand do NOT have the merle gene, so they will most likely not be born deaf.

Now after all that spiel on eye color, the dog I was able to get a picture of came in about a week ago and he's a male Golden Retriever named Dusty. He's unique to me because of his coat color AND the complete heterochromia that gives him the really cool eye colors. Also, he is neither husky nor does he have the merle gene...which leads me to believe that he has leucism! I'm almost positive he has leucism that could be a result from the split eye colors he has. His coat is not white but it is nearly white (so he's not albino) - but he definitely does not have the "golden" color of a normal retriever. The other two dogs that have the heterochromia are shepherd mixes and one has the merle gene, so they're the more common breeds you see with the split eye colors.

Unfortunately for Dusty, he tested positive for heartworms, which means he will be treated in Isolation for a period of at LEAST 1 to 3 months at the shelter. The good news is that he will be put up for adoption eventually and I KNOW for a fact that he will be adopted very very quickly. I mean look at what a handsome looking dog he is! Plus he is a very sweet and mellow dog, so I'm sure he'd fit right in to a nice family. Here's some pictures of Dusty:

Hip Dysplasia

I wanted to quickly write about this! We had a dog named Sugar, a young German Shepherd/Lab mix, who came in about a week and a half ago. I saw her come in and the young lady who was bringing her in said to us that she wasn't "leash trained" and didn't like to walk on it. It's not that uncommon to see dogs who don't like to walk on leashes simply because they've never been trained! So I had to carry poor Sugar (might I add she weighed at least 50 pounds) into her kennel because she had planted herself firmly on the ground and it didn't look like she was planning on going anywhere.

I had wrote a note on her cage letting the volunteers and staff know that she needed to be walked on a harness until she was properly leash trained. What was weird was that we noticed she didn't even want to move IN her kennel at all! We put her on a vet check and it turns out the poor girl had hip dysplasia! :( No wonder she didn't feel like moving, she was in so much pain that she had trouble getting up and didn't seem to have any energy (especially for a young dog). All these symptoms are common in dogs that have hip dysplasia and some dogs are more prone to it than others. Large breeds such as Labs, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers are more likely to get it.

Hip dysplasia is studied heavily in veterinary science and is the main cause of arthritis of the hips in dogs. It is an abnormal formation in the hip socket that occurs when the femur bone doesn't fit correctly into the pelvic socket (in simple terms). You can alleviate some of the pain by giving them pain medication and taking steps to make them more comfortable...such as weight loss and light exercise. But for the most part, surgery is highly recommended - either reshaping the joint to make the movement easier or doing a complete hip replacement. Both are costly and unfortunately many can't afford the surgery...which is where we come in. Owners drop them off at the shelter and some can't fess up and tell us the REAL reason why they can't (or won't) take care of them anymore. Sugar was sent to a rescue who is going to try and help her and give her the treatment she needs to get better. So hopefully she will be able to live a more comfortable life after being treated :)


  1. You should become a vet!!! I have learned a lot about human hip displasia and we just finished studying the eye and did not learn about heterochromia - so you are one step ahead of my classes!

    Great post!

  2. Thanks! I've been learning about so many different diseases and conditions that it's overwhelming, but I love it. I'm planning to veterinary school for sure so hopefully it will happen sooner than later :)

  3. HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! =o) <3<3<3

  4. We have a white rescue/found road/unclaimed. Have been researching and she may be a white retriever/Aussie mix. She has a white crescent shape in one eye which might explain the Aussie. Also Assies that lose their color pigmentation resemble white retrievers...

  5. Also I'd love to send you a pic ..not sure how. My girl looks a lot like Dusty .. :)