A close up of a dog with one brown eye and one blue eye.
A close up of a dog with one brown eye and one blue eye. Photography ©EmilySkeels | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Let’s Talk Dogs With Different-Colored Eyes, or Heterochromia in Dogs

Have you ever seen (or been the lucky parent of!) dogs with different-colored eyes? Two different-colored eyes, also called heterochromia, are more likely to occur in certain breeds. So, is heterochromia in dogs ever something to worry about? Let’s learn more.
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Many dogs have brown eyes (or golden- or amber-colored eyes, which are a variation of brown). Some dogs have blue eyes, and some dogs even have two different-colored eyes, sometimes referred to as “odd eyes.” This hauntingly beautiful phenomenon, called heterochromia, can also occur in cats and even people. Let’s learn more about dogs with different-colored eyes or heterochromia in dogs.

What breeds are most likely to have heterochromia?

Siberian Husky with two different-colored eyes.
Different-colored eyes are more common in certain breeds, like Siberian Huskies. Photography ©Eudyptula | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Heterochromia in dogs is common in breeds like Australian Cattle Dogs, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Dalmatians, Great Danes (harlequin coat pattern), Shetland Sheepdogs, Siberian Huskies and Shih Tzus.

What causes heterochromia in dogs?

“Coat color and pattern can also have an influence on heterochromia,” explains Doug Payne, DVM, medical director of VCA East Penn Animal Hospital in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania. “Merle, dapple, white, and increased white patterns around the head all appear to be more prevalent. Interestingly, in Dalmatians there appear to be more females affected than males.”

The iris is the colored part of a dog’s eye. “The color of the iris is determined by the presence of pigment, also known as melanin,” Dr. Payne says. “The iris in most dogs and cats has high amounts of melanocytes that give it the normal dark to golden-brown color. Pets with blue eyes have a genetic mutation in the genes that is responsible for regulating the concentration and distribution of melanin. This results in the absence of melanocytes in the iris, giving them blue eyes.”

What factors determine heterochromia in dogs?

Heterochromia in dogs may be hereditary (the dog was born that way) or acquired (the dog’s eyes change color over time).

There are three variations of hereditary heterochromia in dogs: 

  1. Complete, also known as heterochromia irides (one eye is a completely different color than the other eye)
  2. Sectoral (part of the dog’s iris is blue and the rest of that eye is a different color)
  3. Central (different colors within the iris give a spiked or haloed appearance).

Complete heterochromia in dogs is frequently seen in Australian Cattle Dogs, Australian Shepherds, Dalmatians and Siberian Huskies. According to Dr. Payne, sectoral and central heterochromia (called heterochromia iridis) seems like an overall more common presentation in dogs. These types are frequently seen in Border Collies, Catahoula Leopard Dogs, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Dalmatians, Great Danes (harlequin coat pattern), Shetland Sheepdogs, Siberian Huskies and Shih Tzus.

With acquired heterochromia, a loss of pigmentation within the iris occurs because of some other cause. “This can be attributed to many factors, such as inflammatory conditions, physical injuries and even certain medications,” Dr. Payne explains. “There are many other conditions that may affect eye color in dogs and cats. Some of these conditions can be very uncomfortable for pets and if left unaddressed could lead to permanent damage or even loss of vision.”

Are dogs with different-colored eyes at risk for any health problems?

A dog with different-colored eyes in the grass.
Are dogs with different-colored eyes at risk for certain health issues? Photography ©Ben-Schonewille | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

If you notice a change in the color of your dog’s eyes or if your dog’s eyes seem painful or uncomfortable, bring your dog to the veterinarian for an eye exam. “Other conditions that can cause color changes in the eyes that are not associated with heterochromia can include cataracts, glaucoma, corneal dystrophy, uveitis, nuclear sclerosis, underdeveloped optic nerve and retinal dysplasia,” Dr. Payne says.

According to Dr. Payne, contrary to myth, dogs with blue eyes usually don’t have any vision problems or impairments and most of them have normal hearing. “There can be rare exceptions to this, as in the case of Dalmatians with partial or sectoral heterochromia,” he says. “These dogs can have a higher incidence of complete or partial deafness.”

Tell us: Do you have any dogs with different-colored eyes? What breeds or mix of breeds are they?

Thumbnail: Photography ©EmilySkeels | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Read more about dog health and care on Dogster.com:

82 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Dogs With Different-Colored Eyes, or Heterochromia in Dogs”

  1. Betty Du Cre’

    I have a litter of 5 pure blood Boston Terrier puppies that are 4 weeks old, one of the girl puppies has one blue eye.

    B. J. Du Cre'

  2. We have a Husky/ German Shepard that has 1 blue eye & 1 dark brown eye. B/c of his eyes his name is Harvey, named after 2-Face, Super Sweet & loving!

  3. I have what I believe is a husky/pitbull mix. She has complete heterochromia; one blue eye and one golden brown. I’d really like to do a DNA test to learn more about her.

  4. I have a Jack Russell and Maltese mix and he has one brown eye one blue. They say that some have hearing problems when they have this but I think mine just has “selective hearing” . When I call him to come in he pretends he doesn’t hear me but drop a piece of food in his bowl when he’s in another room and this little bugger comes a running!

  5. We have an English bulldog ,he has one blue eye the other one is brown .He can be the most loving dog and then he will start barking nonstop.That doesn’t have any thing to do with his blue eye?He is not deaf but his brother was and I believe he had one blue eye.

  6. I recently bought an Austin. Did not really pay attention to her eye color. I was inspecting her over all health and personality with her litter mates. This was ever the 1st time you would say I had pick of the litter. Both her parents eyes were normal in color. Imagine what a sweet surprise I had a day later when I noticed she had a blue and an amber eye with specs of green or brown in them.

  7. My Daisy, an English Pointer has one eye with sectoral heterochromia (blue with brown on top). I think this is rare in her breed. She’s a rescue and I think she may have been abused.

  8. I have a pure french bulldog who has complete Heterochromia since birth, she has an all white coat and is completely deaf. Her right eye is a beautiful light blue and her left eye is black. Neither of her parents had either issue. Her dad is black and white and her mom is brindle colored. Both of them have dark colored eyes. You didn’t mention about dogs born this way. Could they also have vision problems in the future?

  9. I have a dog she’s a border collie shihtzu mix. She have a complete heterochromia right eye is brown and left eye is blue. Her mom is a border collie and her eyes is both brown same as her dad the shihtzu it has a brown eyes too. I dont know why does her eyes become like that ? but still she’s my baby and i love her so much

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  11. I have an American Staffordshire Terrier with complete Heterochromia. one Ice blue eye and one brown eye. His dad had ice blue eyes and his mom had brown eyes.

  12. Heather Stewart

    We have a walker hound (dad) and a black and tan mom (maybe a hound) with copper colored eyes. That had this gorgeous puppy who was born April 7, 2020 and she has 1 “navy blue” eye and 1 bright blue eye. She is absolutely gorgeous! I wish I could post a picture!

  13. My little merle Aussie Shepherd has Sectorial Heterochromia. My other much bigger Aussie (merle but more a tri-colour) does not. They are both 8 months old and growing well. They are not litter mates. The one with normal eyes can manage the outside stairs at night really very well however, the little merle (with blue eye) cannot negotiate the stairs in the dark so much so, I am beginning to think it may be a sight (dimension, peripheral, depth vision) thing. Has any one else noticed this in their Sectorial Heterochromia fur-baby ?

  14. My sweet girl Rebel (who is a mutt) has 1 ice blue eye and the other eye is half ice blue and half hazel. We found her as a small puppy so we had a dna test done on her. She is 1/4 American Staffordshire Terrier, 1/8 husky, chow, Australian Shepherd, White Swiss Shepherd (a white German Shepherd) and 1/4 of who knows what… she is absolutely beautiful and stunning. It’s as if we can look into her soul.

  15. We have an eight week male malte tzu, mostly white with apricot, one brown eye, other eye has a blue outer ring.

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  17. We once had a litter of blue heeler/Aussie puppies. All had matching eyes. While they were still living in the house with us one of the males had a color change in one eye. It literally happened overnight (I am 100% on the timing). The strangest part was that the puppy’s temperament changed at exactly the same time, from “regular” to super-aggressive…more like super-mean…so much that it scared me.

    Does anyone have an explanation or similar experience?

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