Heterochromia—a condition that affects the color of the iris of the eye—is common in dogs, cats and other species, including humans! It’s a hereditary trait that appears at about 16 weeks of age in canines, and can manifest in three forms: heterochromia iridis (the irises are completely different colors); sectoral heterochromia (two or more colors in the irises, which may include flecks, geometric splits or marbling); central heterochromia (streaks or spikes of color flare irregularly from the center color around the pupil). Scientists have linked the gene that causes merle/dappled coats in dogs with heterochromia; dogs with the piebald/white spotting gene will have heterochromia AND deafness. Heterochromia is most common in 15 breeds of dogs, including huskies, Australian cattle dogs, and Great Danes. Heterochromia that is acquired later in life is caused by trauma to the eye or inflammation in the eye, and should be checked immediately by a veterinarian.

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