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What is an albino dog?
Dogs are awesome!
Fun to be with, loyal companions, they grow old but not grumpy, lifesavers, not as mysterious as cats, no offense to cat lovers out there.
It’s just that, to me, there always seems to be an untold story in those deep, dark cat eyes.
They come in such a variety that there’s something for everyone.
Speaking of variety, color happens to be one of those qualities that dogs are blessed with, and it plays a significant role in influencing your decision to adopt an albino dog.
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Can Dogs Develop Albinism?
As such, the skin appears pink, eyes have light, pale color, and hair is white or cream.
Also, contrary to popular belief, Albinism manifests in different ways (ranging from partial to full).
It doesn’t just affect humans but has also been spotted in gorillas, monkeys, marsupials, killer whales, birds, fish, alligators, to name a few animals.
Yes, they can; in fact, the first case was a Doberman Pinscher dam named Sheba, born in 1976.
Therefore, this article will show you how to identify an albino dog, cause dog albinism, explore other medical and behavioral conditions that they could be predisposed to, and best practices in caring for such individual dogs.
What Causes Albinism In Dogs?
It all starts with the TYR gene, which contains instructions for the manufacture of an enzyme called Tyrosinase.
Tyrosinase is located in specialized cells (Melanocytes) in the skin and produces melanin – the substance that determines your dog’s skin and coat color.
Mutations in this gene will affect the activities of this enzyme.
Specifically, some mutations will stop the activities of Tyrosinase in the production of melanin.
This will lead to the manifestation of total albinism; an albino dog is said to be tyrosinase-negative.
However, an albino pup will be born if two healthy dogs – with the recessive gene – breed.
Chances are 50-50, though.
How To identify Albinism In Dogs
First things first, just because a dog is white doesn’t make it albino.
A dog’s coat color is influenced by an interaction of Eumelanins (produce darker colors) and Pheomelanins (produce lighter colors).
The best way to ascertain your dog is albino is to take it for a medical examination at your local, registered veterinary.
Nonetheless, look out for the following tell-tale signs, which will alert you about possible albinism:
The eyelids and skin under the eyes are depigmented.
Hence, they appear pink because of the blood vessels running under.
Besides, the dog’s iris will have some slight pigment, but it will be too faint to perform its functions optimally.
As such, its eyes will be light gray, blue, or green; albino dogs do not have pink iris compared to albino rabbits, mice, or birds.
In the case of total albinism, no pigments are produced.
Since your dog’s nose has no fur covering it, it will appear pink or slightly white.
However, don’t base your judgment on this observation alone because there are other reasons dogs have pink noses.
If your dog has a pink nose, but its eyelids, eyes, and lips have some color, it would not qualify to be an albino.
Because most newborn pups have pink noses, it would be wise to wait until your dog is at least 9 weeks old before making a conclusive decision about possible albinism.
This is another sign that plays a supportive role in identifying albinism.
Since the lips and gum line do not have pigments, they will appear pink, or take on a pale white appearance (if the dog is also anemic).
Ideally, this sign should manifest right from birth and remain unchanged as the dog grows.
This is because other congenital conditions cause a healthy dog’s lips to lose pigmentation with time and eventually turn pink.
The skin, being the largest organ of the body, plays a pivotal role in determining albinism.
Again – as cliche as this may sound by now- an albino dog’s skin is depigmented.
Therefore, it becomes translucent and appears pink as a result of all blood vessels traversing underneath.
Please note that an albino dog’s fur may appear white, and if you base your observation on the color of its coat, you might miss this crucial red flag.
Just part the hair away so that you inspect the color of the skin beneath.
This is apathy, by your dog, to bright light.
Whenever you take your dog out into the sun, it will always squint or close its eyes, and it will whine or run away from the room when you introduce bright light suddenly.
Moreover, it will be reluctant to play in the sun and prefer to sit or play under shade outdoors.
In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, photosensitivity seals off your suspicion of albinism.
Photosensitivity is caused by an absence of pigment in the iris and retina, limiting the eyes’ ability to filter excess sunlight, thus causing pain to the dog.
How Is Albinism In Dogs diagnosed?
Nevertheless, scientists have not yet fully understood the genetic carriers of albinism in the majority of dog breeds.
Qualified vets can also work with dog breeders to determine the family history of your dog and the likelihood of albinism.
Other diagnostic options include an examination of physical signs, eye examinations (electroretinography) to determine photosensitivity.
Effects of Albinism in a Dog’s Life
Albinism is a rare condition in dogs; thus, apart from a unique appearance, it may come with other exclusive medical conditions:
As seen earlier, albino dogs tend to have light-colored eyes (as opposed to the usual black or brown).
When exposed to direct sunlight or cool, bright LED lights, their eyes aren’t able to effectively filter excess light because of too little melanin.
This condition will mostly affect your dog’s central field of view.
It may have trouble judging depth (thus difficulty using stairs), and – at the worst-case scenario- a gradual loss of vision.
This is another organ that is negatively affected by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.
We know that Melanin protects us from harmful UV rays from the sun.
This same statement is true for dogs.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only condition.
Albino dogs also have weaker immunity than colored dogs.
Behavioral/ Neurological Disorders
Since albinism in dogs is rare, some of the existing cases are the result of inbreeding, which is deliberately facilitated by some breeders.
For instance, all albino Doberman Pinschers are descendants of an albino mother mated to one of her albino sons.
One problem with inbreeding is that the offspring are born with a lower IQ; thus, their ability to amicably socialize with other dogs and people is reduced.
Some are more likely to show aggression and pose a more significant challenge to train.
This could perhaps be the most difficult pill to swallow, but it’d depend on the quality of care you give to your animal.
This effect arises from many factors, including weaker immunity, reduced exposure to sunlight, and other conditions associated with the problem.
There is a common belief that there exists a positive correlation between the color white and deafness.
This was due to a higher rate of deafness among white Dalmatians than any other dog breed.
Nevertheless, a study by Dr. Strain, George, couldn’t prove that presence or absence of melanin influences deafness in animals.
However, further into the study – Hereditary Deafness in Dogs and Cats: Causes, Prevalence, and Current Research – we realize that melanocytes have other functions in the ear, other than housing the tyrosine enzyme which produces different forms of melanin.
The melanocytes assist in maintaining a K+ ionic balance in the Cochlear (inner ear).
The expression of albinism in some dogs suppresses all functions of melanocytes.
This causes structures in the inner ear to die, thus leading to the degeneration of the auditory nerve cells.
In the end, loss of hearing.
Caring For Albino Dogs
Albino dogs are unique but as boisterous and fun as any other dog out there.
Having read this far, you may have said to yourself, “Jeez! How delicate can these animals be?”
You’re probably right, but it is possible to give them a healthy, happy life if you follow the principles outlined below, and – above all- maintain a positive attitude:
- Limit your dog’s exposure to direct sunlight
Based on the increased risks of sun exposure to albinos, your dog can’t spend as much time playing in the sun as other dogs.
This means that he/she should be confined indoors, or at the very least under a shade, during the hottest time of the day.
Please note that they are as energetic as other dogs, and they may not show intolerance to the intense sun when the ‘fun meter’ is way up in the red zone.
It is your responsibility as the parent to take charge.
As such, the best time to participate in outdoor activities would be in the morning or evening.
You might want to go slow on hunting trips and herding activities with albinos.
- Ever heard of dog sunglasses?
No, this isn’t a fashion gimmick for celebrity dogs in Hollywood and wealthy folks in LA; their health depends on it.
Dog sunglasses protect their sensitive eyes by absorbing bright light that could damage the retina and block harmful UV rays from the sun.
This is how you’ll prevent blindness in your albino dogs.
When procuring dog sunglasses, ensure that they are fitted with adjustable straps, lenses have a 100% UV protection (there are ways to test for UV protection in sunglasses at home), and consider the depth of the frames vis-a-vis the size of the eyes.
- Dog Sunscreen and clothing
Sunscreen and clothing protect your dog’s skin from sunburns and eventually prevent skin cancers, triggered by harmful Ultra-Violet rays from the sun.
Dog sunscreen should have an SPF rating higher than 15 – the higher, the better.
Furthermore, avoid products with zinc oxides and Para – Aminobenzoic Acid since they are toxic to dogs when ingested.
Clothing might perhaps be the most durable option since they can be retained for the entire day.
Some essential clothes would be cooling vests, t-shirts, and dresses.
You could also throw in a brimmed hat to protect the eyes and muzzle.
To enhance comfort, aim for a regular fit (neither tight nor loose) and go for cotton or spandex.
If your dog is furry, don’t shave it – especially in the summer- since fur offers some protection from the UV rays.
Start by developing a diet plan tailored to your albino dog’s needs.
Based on the effects that we’ve seen above, your dog’s diet should, ideally, promote a robust immune system, maintain healthy skin and fur, encourage growth and provide a balanced combination of nutrients.
It starts in his gut; Dr. Susan Wynn of BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital says that it contains 70% of the body’s immune system.
Starchy grains increase acidity and are highly likely to promote inflammation; this will compromise immunity.
A healthy population of these microorganisms promotes gut immunity, which in turn improves overall internal resistance.
Other supplements include fish oil (maintains healthy skin and coat and soothes inflammation in the gut), and coconut oil (contains antiviral and antibacterial properties).
If you are going to purchase animal supplements from the US, look for products with the quality seal of the National Animal Supplement Council.
Do not hesitate to take advantage of natural immune boosters that you’re vet is OK with.
Foods rich in zinc (grass-fed beef, ground pumpkin seeds) help your dog fight canine flu.
Finally, give priority to foods with Beta-Carotene (your dog’s body can convert it to Vitamin A).
This boosts your dog’s eyesight and offers relief from the sun’s UV rays, and Vitamin E, which maintains muscle tone, healthy skin, and acts as an antioxidant.
- Living with a deaf dog
What do you do in case your dog becomes deaf?
First, keep a collar – with your contact information- on him and possibly add a small bell so that you’ll always know when he’s on the move.
Two, if you are not with him, keep him contained within the compound.
Three, always keep him leashed and in your line of sight when outside.
This is because they may not sense a car, or any other threat, approaching until it’s too close.
Loss of hearing will prompt you to change some of the ways you communicate with your dog.
This will involve replacing verbal signals with visual signals.
For instance, you could move a flashlight back and forth to train your dog to move towards a particular direction.
If he’s playing outside and you’d to call him back into the house in the evening, you could switch the porch lights on and off to signal that it’s time to come inside.
If you’d like to wake your dog, approach his sleeping quarters in loud stomps to feel the vibrations on the ground or slightly move their bed.
You can use this approach when you want to feed him so that he can associate being woken up with a good thing; this prevents them from being aggressive.
Amy Bender of spruce pets.com adds a paradoxical tip by advising that you use your voice when giving out visual commands so that they are more natural, compelling, and consistent.
This is one way of improving the immunity of your albino dog.
A little is OK, but if your dog doesn’t get enough exercise, fat accumulates to levels that aggravate his already weakened immunity.
This means that he shouldn’t be exposed to too much sun, which doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be outdoors.
The activities that you should involve your dog depends on its breed, size, age, and guidance from your consulting vet (make sure you talk to them before choosing a particular routine).
Nonetheless, there’s some general information that you should know.
First, if you notice that your dog is pacing a lot or seems restless somehow, it shows he has some energy to burn.
Start with some short exercises and work up to longer routines, but the minimum time should be 30 minutes.
Hunting, herding, and running breeds should get at least 1 to 2 hours of physical exercise, of which 30 minutes should include academic activities.
Short-nosed dogs are mostly content with moderate exercises.
To maintain your dog’s interest, allow him to take part in mind-stimulating activities – let him explore those exciting scent trails, find new walking/running routes, and enable him to interact with other dogs safely.
Remember to avoid exercising your dog during the hottest part of the day.
Unfortunately, dogs’ albinism isn’t a trait that you’d consider desirable when it comes to their offspring.
This is due to the many health complications that they have to endure.
Albino dogs are a rare and unique category.
We have determined that true albinos are born with a congenital inability to produce melanin throughout the body.
This distinguishes them from white dogs because the latter has pigments on its nose, lips, and eyes (at the very least).
This article has also outlined the effects of albinism on dogs.
Though significant, we’ve also articulated measures that you can adopt to give your dog, as usual, life as is possible.
You can give your albino dog a full life, in addition to the advice given in this article, work closely with your local vet – everything relies on their expert opinion.
There are people out there who have lived with these individual dogs and enjoyed every moment with them; we encourage you to be positive and see how much willpower is packed into these lovable creatures.
Are you informed and inspired?
Tell us what you learned about “albino dogs,” If you’ve owned one before, please share your experience with other readers on the comment section below and us.