Are Dogs with Blue Eyes Deaf? Myths and Difficult Truths


There is no denying that there is something quite special about dogs with blue eyes, or at least that’s how most humans feel when they see them. Upclose, blue-eyed dogs are really stunning and can take your breath away, which is why many people are charmed by them and want to get one.

But once these people start to dig deep and learn a bit about them, they find a lot of contradicting information, one of which is that blue eyed dogs are likely to be deaf.

But can this even be true? Are dogs with blue eyes deaf? Dogs with blue eyes are not deaf. Blue eyes in dogs are caused by the absence of pigmentation in the iris and this doesn’t cause deafness or indicate it, but it’s true that blue-eyed dogs are statistically more likely to be deaf, but this is correlation and not causation.

This topic is very interesting but it’s also quite complicated, so I’m going to do my best to try to explain it simply. But the thing you need to do is that there is nothing wrong with dogs with blue eyes.

However, they are indeed more prone to some health issues which you do need to know about if you want to get one. So, let’s get to it.

The link between Blue-eyed Dogs and Deafness

are dogs with blue eyes deaf featured image

Blue eyes are indeed linked to deafness, but it’s not a causality link. Meaning, we have no proof that having blue eyes causes any dog to goes deaf. Furthermore, we don’t really know what is the method of genetic transmission of deafness in dogs.

Currently, there are no recognized forms of sex-linked deafness in dogs, even though this is the case for humans.

So how are blue eyes and deafness in dogs connected? Blue eyes result from the absence of pigment in the Iris, and scientists discovered that this is indeed common with pigment-associated deafness but could not find any way to prove that it could prove an indication of deafness or even of the presence of the deafness gene.

Scientists are still working on it, but till the moment of writing, there is no reason to believe that blue eyes are associated with deafness in dogs.

But why is deafness more common in blue-eyed dogs? First off, you need to understand that “more” simply means “more”. It can be a 1% more risk and it would still be considered more. scientists did the research on many breeds and came out with the numbers, and the numbers are just not that significant.

For example, in the Dalmatians, the prevalence of congenital deafness was the most prevalent and the numbers were that 8% of all dogs in the US were bilaterally deaf while 22% of them were unilaterally deaf.

Unilaterally deaf means that the dog could hear well except when conducting a special test called the brainstem auditory evoked response (or BAER, for short) on them.

That’s because to actually get the data that can definitely prove or disprove the theory that deafness is connected with blue eyes you will have to get the data on millions of dogs of all breeds, ages, and from everywhere around the world. This is a very huge project to take to prove something scientifically insignificant.

Secondly, you also need to understand that even if they did get those numbers, it still won’t be a causality link, but merely a statistical one. Meaning; yes, it could prove that blue-eyed dogs are more prone to be deaf, but we still wouldn’t know why.

Now that you know that blue-eyed dogs are fine, you can check out these awesome hypoallergenic dog breeds with blue eyes here.

The link between deafness and coat color

Interestingly enough, there is a strong link between coat color and congenital deafness in dogs. Dogs with predominantly white coats which is often caused by the merle gene were found to be at an increased risk for congenital deafness.

The merle gene is seen in the following dog breeds;

  • Collies
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Norwegian Dunker hound
  • American Foxhound
  • Dachshund

Another pigmentation gene that’s connected to deafness in dogs is the Piebald gene which is present in the following dog breeds;

  • Bull Terrier
  • Samoyed
  • Greyhound
  • English Setter
  • Beagle
  • Bulldog
  • Dalmatian
  • Sealym Terrier

It’s worth noting here that blue eyes can occur in more breeds than you think. For example, did you know that golden retrievers can have blue eyes?

What causes deafness in dogs?

Deafness in dogs may occur because of genetics, in which case the dog will be deaf since birth or deafness will develop within a few weeks of birth, or the dog may become deaf later in life because of things like infections, injuries (such as a strong head injury or a ruptured eardrum), toxicities, or aging (presbycusis).

Basically, it works in dogs very similarly to how it works in humans, and we don’t know 100% everything about it yet.

Deafness can also be temporary or permanent. For example, older dogs will usually gradually lose their hearing as they get older and their nerves start degrading faster, but most of them never become completely deaf.

Temporary deafness can also occur because of wax build up as the dog’s ear hairs collects wax and debris and the buildup starts blocking the ear canal and leads to hair loss. This is reversible and once the dog is treated, they will get their hearing back just fine.

This is why cleaning dogs’ ears is very important. You can check out my guide to cleaning dog’s ears here where I discuss the step-by-step process of cleaning your dog’s ears safely and easily. I also have another guide on plucking dog’s ear hair here which you should check out as well because it uncovers a lot of myths about cleaning dogs’ ears.

Are There Health Issues with blue-eyed dogs?

Blue eyes in dogs are not an indication of any genetic health issues, and the genes that cause blue eyes in dogs have not been found to be the cause of any health issues. There is a link between blue eyes in dogs and hearing impairments but it is not a causality link.

In simpler words; blue eyed dogs are just like other dogs; prone to the same health issues and problems and are not better or worse in any way from the genetic stand point. So, if you are thinking of getting a blue-eyed dogs, you should not worry about health issues too much for now.

Something you might not know about blue eyes in dogs is that they can make the dog see the world a bit differently. You can check out how blue-eyed dogs see the world here.

It’s also worth noting that while most blue-eyed dogs were born with blue eyes, some dogs’ eyes change their color later in life. This can be quite worrying for some dog owners, so it pays to learn what it really means when this happens. That’s why I’ve made this guide on what happens when your dog’s eyes turn blue here.

How to tell if your dog is deaf?

To know for sure that your dog is deaf, you will need a complete veterinary exam. However, there are some signs that will tell you that your dog may be deaf or at least has some hearing problems.

Here are the signs your dog may be deaf;

  • They don’t come when called
  • They don’t follow your commands
  • They become easily startled
  • They bark excessively
  • They sleep a lot more
  • The show no empathy (or become apathetic)

If your dog starts showing some or all of these signs, you may want to take them to the vet to have them checked out. There are, of course, other reasons that may cause the dog to exhibit sudden behavior changes, but if they seem to suddenly be unable to hear as well as they could before, it is probably a hearing problem.

The good news is that the sooner you discover the problem, the more likely it is that your vet will be successful in treating your dog and help them get back to normal.

5 Dog Breeds that are more prone to deafness

There are 5 dog breeds in particular that were found to be particularly prone to deafness. That’s according to a study of breed-specific deafness in dogs that studies thousands of dogs from specific breeds. The original study covered 14 breeds but only 5 of those breeds had enough subjects tested for the numbers to have any real meaning, so we are going to only mention these five.

Here are the 5 dog breeds that are more prone to deafness;

Breed Total deafness Risk
Dalmatian28%
Australian Cattle Dog 14.6%
English Setter12.4%
Bull Terrier 11.5%
English Cocker Spaniel5.5%

Before you go, you might want to check out why some blue-eyed dogs need sunglasses here.

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Related Questions

Do Dogs with blue eyes have problems?

Dogs with blue eyes do not have problems, but blue eyes have been linked to having hearing problems according to recent studies. However, these studies were unable to prove that blue eyes or the gene causing them was the main cause of the hearing impairments.

This simply means that dogs with blue eyes are more prone to deafness, but we don’t have proof that its the gene that is causing the eyes’ color that is also causing the hearing problems.

Why are white dogs with blue eyes deaf?

White dogs with blue eyes are more likely to suffer from hearing impairments but not all white dogs with blue eyes are deaf. White dogs with blue eyes will have piebald color genes or the merle color gene, and these have been linked to deafness in dogs but there is no proof that they cause the deafness themselves.

Do Blue eyes mean the dog is blind?

Blue eyes don’t always mean the dog is blind or going blind, but it could mean that the dog’s vision is becoming impaired in some capacity. Some breeds like Siberian Huskies will have blue eyes and perfect eye vision, while in other breeds where the blue eye color is rarer, the presence of blue in the eyes could mean the dog is going blind.

Helpful Resources

CONGENITAL DEAFNESS AND ITS RECOGNITION George M. Strain, PhD

Deafness in blue-eyed white cats: The uphill road to solving polygenic disorders

Deafness prevalence and pigmentation and gender associations in dog breeds at risk by George MStrain

Analysis of systematic effects on congenital sensorineural deafness in German Dalmatian dogs

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources

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