Freaky Friday Facts:
The Deaf Gene: 6 Facts about White Coated Dogs.
Have you ever known a deaf dog? Was she white? Did he have blue eyes? Was she the most attentive dog you’ve ever met? I have never met a deaf dog I didn’t love, and I can only imagine everyone else feeling the same way. Here are a few facts about white dogs with congenital deafness:
- White dogs with congenital deafness were not born deaf.
The deafness actually develops in the first few weeks after birth while the ear canal is still closed. Pigment producing cells are also responsible for blood flow to the ears. Lack of oxygenated blood causes nerve cells in the cochlea to die, leading to permanent deafness. 1
- Not all white dogs are white.
Dogs lacking the pigmentation gene are also lacking pigmentation in their skin. Dogs with “white” fur, black noses, and black rimmed eyes are not lacking pigmentation. Their fur is actually a very light buff color, appearing white to our eyes. This is why we don’t see congenitally deaf Samoyeds or Westies. 4
- In some breeds, dogs with blue eyes and a white coat are twice as likely to be deaf.
Both eye color and coat color are linked to pigmentation genes. White coats are associated with lack of skin pigmentation, and blue eyes are the result of lack of pigment in the iris 2
- Dalmatians are affected by the deaf gene more than any other dog.
30% are deaf in at least one ear. And one out of two Dalmatians with blue eyes are deaf. 3
- Due to lack of skin pigmentation, deaf dogs are more likely to sunburn.
Those with pink noses and short coats are especially susceptible. Gentle sunblock for babies or sensitive skin are generally safe for dogs, but there are sunblocks made specifically for dogs as well. 5
- Deaf dogs are not necessarily harder to train!
Just like with people, their other senses are enhanced. The deaf dogs I have had the pleasure of knowing are very in tune to their people. They make a lot more eye contact to look for cues, and easily learn hand gestures and body language. 6
Maybe that last fact is what makes deaf dogs so special? Eye contact is seen as an act of dominance by most dogs, but deaf dogs seem to embrace it, creating a more “human” experience for us. The next time you see a white-coated, blue-eyed beauty, wait for eye contact and give him a soft blink or two. We can all use a little more connection in our lives.