Labrador retrievers come in varies colors such as black, yellow, chocolate, white, red and silver. Depending on these coat colors, the eye color of these dogs are also different. For example, yellow and black Labs have brown eyes and chocolate Labs have hazel or brown eyes. But what about blue eyes? Is it a healthy sign when a Lab has blue eyes?
Well, let me explain whether it is usual or not when your Labrador has blue eyes.
It is normal when a Labrador has blue eyes because it means the dog has a lower concentration of melanin in the front layers of its iris. You see, melanin is a pigment that a dog produces to protect its skin from the Sun. So, when a Lab has less melanin production, it means the dog’s coat and eye colors become lighter. For example, the white coat with blue eyes.
On the other hand, when a Lab has a higher amount of melanin, that means the coat and eye colors get darker such as the black coat with brown eyes.
However, pigment production of a Lab can differ based on its genes. The genes of purebred Labradors usually cause high melanin production which can result in brown, black and gray eyes
In other words, when a Lab has blue eyes, it means the dog is likely not purebred.
Nonetheless, there are different factors that cause low melanin production in a Labrador. So, let me explain all of them in detail.
The factors that cause blue eyes with low melanin production
Any of these factors can be the reason why your Lab has blue eyes but if the dog has being having blue eyes since its birth, then, the reason for blue eyes is probably none of these factors.
That means blue is the dog’s natural eye color. You see, It all comes down to the Lab’s genes. Just keep that in mind.
01 – Albinism
Albinism is a genetic mutation. Some dogs can go full albino (tyrosinase) or partial albino (tyrosinase-positive). When a Lab becomes albino, it completely loses all its melanin. As a result, the color of the dog’s fur and eyes change. Coats become extremely pale, most likely white and eyes turn pink or blue.
What differentiates a normal white-coated Lab from an albino Lab is the eye color. Usually, an albino Lab would always have pink eyes and sometimes, even blue eyes.
02 – Vitiligo
With Vitiligo, melanin production can be decreased when the pigment-producing cells die or stop/decrease producing melanin. Most of the times, a Lab will have patches of white fur everywhere. It can affect eyes as well. However, this does not cause pain or any significant harm to the dog. So, do not worry.
03 – Lack of sunlight in the Winter
In the winter, there is very little sunlight and that means there will not be sufficient Vitamin D for a Lab to produce melanin. You see, melanin is produced to protect the dog from the damaging rays of the Sun. So, no Sun exposure means no need for melanin.
In this time, an enzyme called “Tyrosinase” that is responsible for producing melanin stops producing melanin in usual amounts due to that lack of Sunlight.
In brief, as a reaction to the decrease in vitamin D, the melanin amount goes down which results in lighter-colored Labrador coats and eyes.
04 – Bacterial and fungal infections
Due to bacterial and fungal infections , the dog firstly will show symptoms such as flaky and crusty skin, redness, itching and odor. These conditions interferes with the pigment production (melanin) and change it.
As a result, a Lab will show white patches of fur with light-colored eyes like it does with Vitiligo.
05 – Hormonal disorders
A Labrador can experience hormonal imbalances, deficiencies and surpluses. These conditions directly affect the melanin production. It can either increase or decrease pigmentation.
However, hormonal disorders does not only cause changes to melanin but many other harmful health problems to the dog. So, it is best to bring your Lab to the vet’s office ASAP.
All in all, these disorders cause melanin decrease and blue eyes.
However, here are common symptoms to detect these disorders
- Skin problems such as
- Losing hair
- Constantly, getting infections
- Excessive drinking. Thus, excessive urinating
- Weight loss or weight gain with no changes in the appetite
- Lethargy and weakness
- Panting a lot
Remember, the quicker you detect these health issues, the easier it is to treat them and cure the dog. So, knowing the symptoms to notice these conditions early is the way to go.
Should you be concerned if your Labrador is blue-eyed?
Normally, you do not have to be concerned when your Labrador has blue eyes since, changes in melanin production are normal. However, some of those changes can be caused by health issues. So in that case, it is best to seek veterinary help and do a full diagnosis on the dog to detect any health issues. So that, they can be treated ASAP to cure the dog.
You see, the reason for your Lab’s blue eyes can be related to the dog’s health. So, this eye color can simply be a symptom of a health problem.
However, when such a health condition is treated and cured, the dog’s eye color will change back to normal but if it did not, that means it is the natural color of the dog’s eyes.
In that case, you do not have to worry at all.
In brief: If your Lab has been blue-eyed from the birth, then, that should be its natural eye color and therefore, it is normal. On the other hand, if the dog’s eyes turned blue out of nowhere, then, that must have been caused by an abnormal factor and therefore, it is a sign that you should seek veterinary help.
How to prevent your Lab from being blue-eyed due to health issues?
Albinism can not be cured as it is a genetic mutation that is inherited. So, in this case, I would embrace and accept the doggo as it is. Plus, it makes the dog look cool and exotic. I mean who would not want their pet to look awesome.
All I am saying is that this condition does not cause any pain to your Labrador and in fact, it does not even know or care what it looks like. This condition is something that only the owner usually cares about.
That means, with albinism, your Lab can live a normal and happy life like any other normal dog.
Unfortunately, this is the same as Albinism. Luckily, Vitiligo also does not cause discomfort or any life-threatening symptoms. Therefore, treat the dog with loads of love like you always do without any concerns.
Lack of sunlight in Winter:
For this one also, you do not have to do anything except the good news is that a Lab’s melanin production becomes normal as the winter ends and sunny days come with more sunlight (Vitamin D).
Bacterial and fungal infections:
These infections are treatable as there are many oral anti-fungal medications such as itraconazole, ketoconazole and fluconazole. These medications have proven to be highly effective but for full recovery, you have to give your dog these medicines for prolonged periods of time (Could be for months).
Nevertheless, go to the vet first and with their treatments, prescriptions and recommendations, your dog can be cured regardless the seriousness of the infection (Ensure to be quick to bring the dog to the vet though).
Usually, hormonal disorders can be predicted (prognosis) by vets even if the conditions are not that apparent. Also, vets can tell whether the symptoms of these disorders will worsen and endanger a Lab’s life.
Along with all that, these conditions are surely treatable. Some should be treated with lifelong medication while others can be cured surgically. It all depends on the dog.
You see, evening out the hormone levels when they are already not at equal levels is what treating hormonal disorders is all about.
Hormone deficiencies: are treated by replacing the missing hormones. That way, the hormone levels can be balanced out.
Done with ways such as:
- Insulin being Injected for treating diabetes mellitus
- Orally, giving thyroid and steroid hormones
Hormone surpluses: (Excessive hormone production) are treated 3 ways
- Surgically treating
- Using radiotherapy such as the use of radioactive iodine to remove an overactive thyroid gland
- Oral medications
Now it is obvious that lower melanin production causes a Lab to have blue eyes. Although it sounds like a health issue, generally, it means the low pigmentation is caused by the dog’s genes and most Labs that have this condition are not purebred.
Nevertheless, there are more factors that cause the melanin production to decrease such as health conditions like Albinism and Vitiligo or uncontrollable phenomena like the lack of sunlight in the Winter.
Albinism and Vitiligo can not be treated. However, a Labrador can live a happy and long life despite these health conditions since they do not cause harm or pain to the dog.
On the other hand, illnesses such as hormonal disorders and bacterial and fungal infections can surely be treated with vet care.
Nonetheless, with untreatable conditions such as Albinism, the best thing you can do is to embrace the dog as it is and show the dog a lot of love and attention with great maintenance.
That way the dog can live a happy and long life just like other normal Labradors.
Featured image credit: Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash