Piebald Spotting on Chihuahuas

This piebald Chihuahua puppy has portions of his black coat covered with a white blanket.
i Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images

What color is that Chihuahua in the window? Chihuahuas are usually seen in a light brown color known as “fawn," but the Chihuahua can come in a wide variety of colors. Piebald Chihuahuas are mostly white but have patches of any color in the Chihuahua spectrum.

Acceptable Chihuahua Colors

Despite fawn being the most prevalent, the Chihuahua is a colorful breed. Their coats can come in any color known to dogs, with or without sable or white. In addition to the white spotting pattern that causes piebald spotting, Chihuahua coats can also display brindle or merle patterns.

Piebald Spotting

The Chihuahua coat can be solid, marked with white, or parti-colored (white with patches of color). Small splashes of white and large amounts of white that mask the body color -- piebald -- are both produced by the same genetic component called the “white spotting” locus. The piebald spotting gene is recessive to the solid coat color; that is, it takes two identical genes to produce piebald spotting and only one gene to produce a solid colored coat. If any color shows through the white blanket caused by the piebald spotting allele, it is likely to be on the dog’s head and at the base of her tail. The piebald spotting gene can cover any color or pattern present in a Chihuahua’s coat.

Deafness, Piebald Spotting and Blue Eyes

The gene for piebald spotting is commonly associated with congenital hereditary deafness. In some breeds, such as the Dalmatian, blue-eyed dogs are prone to deafness. Deafness usually occurs on the side of the head upon which the blue eye appears. That is, if a dog has a blue eye on the right side, then he will be deaf in the right ear. If the dog has two blue eyes, he is often deaf in both ears. This tendency has not yet been associated with the Chihuahua. It is interesting to note, however, that the AKC Chihuahua standard refers to blue eyes as being a “serious fault,” while the UKC standard recommends that only dogs with dark eyes be bred.

Piebald Spotting vs. Merle

Many breeds that have the piebald spotting gene also have genes for producing merles. The Chihuahua is one such breed. Both the piebald spotting gene and the merle gene are known to have some influence in producing deaf puppies. The piebald spotting coat pattern and blue eyes are both recessive traits, while the merle coat pattern appears due to a dominant gene. No suggestion exists so far that the same dog displaying both piebald spotting and merle coat patterns will have any greater tendency toward deafness, even though the same dog having two genes for the merle may have an increase in the tendency to be deaf.

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