The Siberian Husky dogs are famous for their sled-pulling capabilities and their distinct wolfish appearance. Another eye-catching trait is the piercing blue eyes.
A blue-eyed Husky with wolf-like coloration is truly a sight to behold. In this article, we’ll look at everything there is to know about blue-eyed Huskies, from genetics to the health impacts.
Do All Huskies Have Blue Eyes?
You’ll be surprised to know that the answer is actually no. Even though Huskies are known for their blue eyes, they can also have different eye colors.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC)’s official breed standards, the Siberian Husky’s almond-shaped eyes can either be solid brown or blue. These pups can also have one of both (a condition known as heterochromia) or even parti-colored eyes.
While it’s not listed under AKC’s official breed standards, green is another possible eye color for a Husky. However, sometimes the green coloration is just a result of brown and blue hues mixing in the eyes. This case happens more commonly in Husky puppies.
How Rare Are Blue Eyes on a Husky?
Solid blue eyes have a 40% chance of appearing on a Siberian Husky. Solid brown eyes also share the same percentage. These two colors are the most common colorations for a Husky, which means blue eyes aren’t rare for this breed.
If we’re talking about rarity, a Husky is one of the few breeds that can exhibit heterochromia. Heterochromia generally occurs less frequently compared to single solid eye colors, but blue and brown are still the common colors.
Parti-colored eyes (also known as sectoral heterochromia) are eyes that have two or more colors on a single iris. This is even rarer than heterochromia, with only a 5% chance of appearing in Huskies.
What Are the Genetics Behind a Husky’s Blue Eyes?
Now that we know blue eyes aren’t that rare, how exactly do they occur? How does a Husky get their famous blue eyes, and are they any different from the blue eyes of other breeds?
These questions puzzled dog breeders for a while, but thanks to advances in DNA testing and canine genetic profiles, scientists have figured out the answer.
The ALX4 Gene
There actually isn’t a specific blue pigment responsible for eye color. Instead, the blue-colored eyes of Siberian Husky dogs are caused by a decrease in pigment.
Because their eyes don’t have the usual amount of pigments, light enters and exits differently. This results in the icy blue shades we see in their eyes. The same principle applies to how we perceive the color of the sky and outer space!
The main reason behind the decrease in pigments in a Husky’s eyes is a mutation in the ALX4 gene—a gene that appears on chromosome number 18 in canines. Chromosome 18 controls the development of skin, hair follicles, and craniofacial features.
A duplicated DNA sequence occurs near this ALX4 gene, which specifically decreases the amount of pigment, also known as melanin, produced in the eyes.
How the ALX4 Mutation Was Discovered
You must be thinking: how did scientists find out about this?
Well, prior to any research on this particular gene, researchers only knew of a completely different gene that controls blue eyes: the MITF gene, but we’ll look more into this gene in a minute.
Interestingly, breeds like the Siberian Husky and the Australian Shepherd exhibited blue eyes even without the expression of the MITF gene variants.
Organizations like Embark conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on eye color. In addition, some researchers employed genetic testing as well.
Pooling the results from different genetic profiles, the study identified genetic sequence duplication near the ALX4 gene. This genetic variant accounts for 75% of blue eyes in the genetic profiles!
The MITF Gene vs. The ALX4 Gene
Now, do the blue eyes of a Husky differ from the blue eyes of other breeds, such as Leopard Catahoulas, for example? The answer is yes.
Before studies were done on the ALX4 gene, the MITF gene was the only known gene responsible for a dog’s eye color. However, it’s worth noting that this gene is responsible for coat coloration as well.
Although the name sounds complex, you might actually know some of the dog breeds whose eye colors are controlled by the MITF gene:
- Bull Terriers
- Leopard Catahoulas
Unfortunately, the MITF gene doesn’t just control eye and coat colors. It also controls hearing.
So, all in all, the main difference between the MITF and ALX4 mutations is that MITF genes control other factors that increase a dog’s susceptibility to certain health conditions.
Blue eyes in a Leopard Catahoula, for example, significantly increase the risk of blindness and deafness due to the MITF gene. This is why it’s common to see breeds with either piebald or merle coat genes that are partially or completely deaf and/or blind.
What Does Blue Eyes on a Husky Mean?
In some breeds, blue isn’t the preferred eye color—this is especially true for those with MITF gene mutations because they’re usually associated with eye problems.
Does the same hold true for a blue-eyed Husky even though the ALX4 gene is responsible for their blue eyes?
Fortunately, there is no connection between a Husky’s blue eyes and its behaviors or capabilities. Instead, the blue eyes of a Husky are purely aesthetic. This is one of the reasons why it’s a highly desirable trait and is part of the official breed standard.
Impact of Blue Eyes on the Vision and Eye Health of a Husky
Unlike other dog breeds with blue eyes caused by a mutation in either the MITF or merle gene, a Husky’s blue eyes aren’t associated with health conditions.
However, dogs with blue eyes are more sensitive to the sun and light in general. This is solely due to the fact that they have less pigment in their eyes.
Melanin actually blocks harmful UV and blue light from the retina. Because there’s a lack of pigment in blue-eyed dogs, they are more prone to eye damage related to light.
How to Protect a Blue-Eyed Husky From UV Damage
You can’t restrict outdoor time solely to escape the sun, especially for breeds like the Siberian Husky, who loves running around in wide open spaces.
Instead, the best way to protect a blue-eyed Husky from UV damage is to provide shade for them. You don’t necessarily have to buy your pup matching sunglasses or hats.
While you’re free to pamper your pups with accessories, giving them ample shade to rest under during hot days outside is usually enough.
If you notice that your dog is squinting because of the sun, it might be time to head back indoors to give his eyes a little break.
Where Can You Find a Blue-Eyed Husky?
Since blue eyes aren’t rare in the Husky breed, chances are, most breeders will have them.
Unlike some dog breeds, blue eyes on a Husky are an attractive and popularly chosen trait. This means breeders are working on producing litters with this quality.
It’s also possible to find a blue-eyed Husky in shelters or rescue organizations. Unfortunately, this is where they end up when owners can’t keep up with this breed’s energy requirements—which are considerably high.
Should You Get a Blue-Eyed Husky?
If you don’t have a blue-eyed Husky yet, should you get one? The answer is a resounding yes, but only if you consider other factors as well.
There’s nothing wrong with deciding based on eye color, but it should never be the sole deciding factor. A blue-eyed Husky is still a Husky and will have all of the traits and personalities of this breed.
Keep in mind that Siberian Husky pups are generally friendly, but remember that they’re bred as working dogs. This means that they’ll need proper training as well as regular exercise.
Overall, you need to keep them busy and channel their high energy into activities; otherwise, they can end up bored and destructive—or worse, aggressive.
How Can You Breed a Blue-Eyed Husky?
Fortunately for breeders, blue eyes are a dominant trait in a Siberian Husky.
This makes your life easy because even one parent Husky with blue eyes can produce puppies with the same blue eyes. Needless to say, breeding two parent Huskies with this trait significantly increases the chances of producing a litter with blue eyes!
That said, the challenging part comes in determining if a Husky puppy has blue eyes.
This is mainly because, fundamentally, all Husky puppies have blue eyes. As they develop, their eyes can either turn brown or stay blue.
How to Tell if a Husky Puppy Has Blue Eyes?
As a breeder, it’s important to determine each puppy’s qualities before handing them over to their fur parents. So, how can you tell if a Husky puppy truly has blue eyes that won’t turn into another color?
Here are some handy tips and tricks:
Check the Colors Under Sunlight
One thing that can help is to observe the eye colors under sunlight. This can help you determine if other shades or pigments are present or if it really is that signature icy blue.
Just be careful not to expose a puppy’s eyes to direct sunlight for too long as they’re still developing!
Ask for an Expert’s Opinion
Another thing you can do if you still can’t identify is to ask for other experienced Siberian Husky breeders’ opinions.
Frankly, there isn’t really a 100% surefire way to determine if a Husky puppy’s blue eyes will remain blue. Even if you check genetics, remember in the study mentioned earlier, 25% of blue eyes on respondents are still unaccounted for.
However, those breeders or owners with more experience on the field can have keener eyes for this trait and may identify blue-eyed Husky puppies a bit better.
Check for Possible Cataracts
Another thing you have to remember is to make sure that you differentiate blue eyes from a case of canine cataracts. This condition occurs more frequently in older dogs but can still happen to puppies too.
Cataracts, in their early stages, can make a dog’s eyes cloudy and bluish before eventually turning opaque and white.
There are also other conditions that turn your dog’s eyes cloudy, such as nuclear sclerosis. Make sure this isn’t the case when determining if your Husky has blue eyes or not.
Wait It Out
Sometimes, you have no choice but to just wait it out. A Siberian Husky puppy’s eye color can change from bright icy blue to its true color around 2-5 weeks after birth.
Their eyes either remain blue or slowly get mixed with brown hues. During this process, the pigments can make a green hue, which sometimes confuses owners.
However, you have to remember that the length of time needed for a puppy’s eyes to settle into their permanent color varies from pup to pup.
Some Huskies take as long as 8 weeks before their true eye colors settle in. In fact, some people might recommend checking your dog’s eyes when they reach 8 weeks. If you do it any earlier, there will still be a chance that the colors will change.
Why Do Husky Puppies Change Eye Colors?
Siberian Husky puppies open their eyes anywhere between 10-14 days. Once they do, you’ll notice that they’re actually born with blue eyes.
As they grow older, this color can either change or remain blue. This is primarily because their eyes are starting to develop and mature.
Generally speaking, the amount of melanin distributed to their eyes determines how pigmented their irises will be. The same principle applies to how puppy coats tend to either grow darker or lighter over time.
However, only genetics can influence how much melanin is distributed in a Husky. No amount of food or food supplements can alter this.
Additionally, the color change in a Husky puppy’s eyes is usually gradual. On the other hand, a sudden color shift is unusual and warrants a trip to the vet as it could be caused by an underlying condition.