Do Blue-Eyed Siberian Huskies Get Cataracts More Than Brown-Eyed?

Between 8 and 10 percent of Siberian huskies have hereditary cataracts.

Between 8 and 10 percent of Siberian huskies have hereditary cataracts.

Currently there is no scientific evidence that eye color is correlated with cataracts in Siberian huskies. Yet the idea remains widely held among breeders that blue-eyed huskies are more likely to develop the disorder. Huskies as a whole have a very high incidence of congenital eye problems.

Husky Eye Color

Siberian huskies are one of the few dog breeds in which blue eyes are common. Huskies can have two brown eyes, two blue, one of each color or parti-colored eyes (brown and blue mixed together in the same iris). All of these are considered acceptable for the breed standard (the criteria for judging show dogs). There is a common belief that blue eyes are weaker than brown eyes due to a lack of pigment and therefore are more prone to sun damage and cataracts. This is not true -- blue eyes lack melanin, but they do contain pigment. The only eye color that truly lacks pigment is the red albino eye color. Most cataracts in huskies are also unrelated to sun damage, but develop very early in life because the puppy inherited two copies of a recessive gene affecting the lens. Husky breeders see many hundreds or even thousands of puppies, and their claim that blue-eyed dogs are more prone to cataracts may be legitimate, but currently there is no research to back it up. The issue may be further confused because an eye developing a cataract can often appear blue.

Siberian Husky Hereditary Cataracts

Huskies are one of a few breeds that suffer from hereditary cataracts. Unlike most cataracts, which develop in elderly individuals, hereditary (or juvenile) cataracts usually appear by the time a puppy is 1 year old and can begin to develop in puppies as young as 3 months. Cataracts are a build up of protein film within the eyeball, which blocks or deforms the lens. They can affect one or both eyes, and lead to partial or total blindness.

Corneal Dystrophy

Corneal dystrophy is a separate condition, but is often mistaken for cataracts. It is also common in Siberian huskies and can cause the damaged eye to appear blue. In corneal dystrophy, fatty film builds up on the outside of the eye over the cornea. It rarely leads to blindness.

Canine Eye Registry

Because eye disorders are so common in Siberian huskies, there are breed registries to confirm that breeding dogs have had recent eye exams. Huskies can be registered with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation or the Siberian Husky Ophthalmologic Registry. Before purchasing a purebred puppy, it is a good idea to confirm its parents are registered with one of these organizations.

 

About the Author

Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.

Photo Credits

  • portrait of husky dog image by sarit saliman from Fotolia.com