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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

Coat colours are worth to take a closer look.

Our pets are available in all sizes, shapes and colours. The coat colours blue, silver or champagne are becoming more and more fashionable. Many people want to stand out because the animals look special, of course, but unfortunately there are also some effects associated with it.

What is the fur for?

Originally the fur was used for protection from the weather and for camouflage. The colours are caused by the dyes eumelanin (dark coat) and pheomelanin (pale coat, reddish). The basic colors are black, brown and red, whereby there are these colors in the most different manifestations, color-hits and patterns.

How is coat colour createt?

Exotic colours such as blue, silver or champagne are created by the so-called dilute gene. It means color dilution. It brightens a colour e.g. chocolate brown and produces silver. Black becomes Charcoal and yellow becomes Champagne. What looks pretty, however, is often associated with animal suffering. Because the skin of these animals is often extremely sensitive, it comes to pigment disorders, allergies, skin problems, poor coat quality, alopecia (hair loss), eczema, poorly healing wounds and an immune deficiency. Liver and kidney failure also occur more often. The animals have a limited life expectancy and often a reduced quality of life. The itching and other symptoms make it difficult for our pets to concentrate, which has an effect on their behaviour.

The original (wild) form of the gene is called D, the defective (mutated) is called d. The animal can now carry D/D genes, i.e. not be affected by the colour dilution. If only one parent has inherited the defective gene, the animal has D/d alleles and itself has no diluted colours, but is a carrier and can pass it on. d/d are affected by the dilution and have a diluted coat colour.

Breed characteristic – Coat colour


With Weimaraner or Great Danes the dilution color blue is considered as breed characteristic. These do not seem to be affected by the side effects. It is assumed that the dilution genotype alone is not responsible for color mutant alopecia. Which factors and other genes still play a role is unfortunately not yet known. However, the colour gene also performs health and behavioural tasks in the organism.

Blue breeding of the Dobermann is forbidden and falls under the animal protection law under the torture breeding prohibition. Why one does not forbid this for all races remains questionable. The dilution gene is autosomal recessive inherited, which is why the race unit is questionable with these colors (crossings of Weimaraner not excluded). Rarely also due to gene mutations. In former times puppies were killed with false colours, today animal protection laws forbid what happens behind the scenes. It is up to us not to buy animals with these fur colours in order not to promote this breeding further. Because appearance is not everything.

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Coat colours and their effects

In white animals, for example, it depends on whether the colour was created by pheomelanin brightening and whether melanocytes (form the protective pigment melanin) are present. You can recognize this by whether the animal is black on the nose, lips and lid edges, this would be a sign that there are enough melanocytes present, or remains pink. Because these animals are sensitive to UV radiation, get quickly sunburned, tend to skin cancer, are slightly dazzled because the eyes are more sensitive to light, are susceptible to skin diseases and allergies. Genuine albinism (lack of tyrosine) does not occur as a colour basis.

White animals are more prone to deafness, allergies and skin diseases. For example, in Maine Coon cats, pure white animals are popular and should be subjected to an audiometry test.

Two different genes are responsible for the typical Dalmatian pattern. The check gene, which inhibits the distribution of melanocytes, and the spotting gene, which produces the typical spots. This becomes visible only after the first weeks of life. Dalmatian puppies are born completely white, they have black characteristics from birth, they carry a plate spotting which is undesirable in breeding. Therefore these puppies were killed immediately. The paradox is that exactly these puppies are hearing with a higher probability. Especially if the plates are in the head area. One breeds thus knowingly deaf dogs. A third gene, Lotus T, is responsible for the size of the spotting and influences the inheritance of hyperuricosuria (defect of the uric acid metabolism of the kidney).

Coat colour has an influence on health

The merle factor is based on a genetic mutation (of chromosome 10), which affects the silver locus by a malfunction of a colour dilution. If two merle genes are paired with each other, this colouring also leads to a loss of health. There are blue marls (black and grey patches) and red marls (red and brown patches), with some patches lightened and others originally of intense colour. This results in an irregularly spotted coat, which is mainly found in Australia’s Shepherd. This gene brightens the body pigment eumelanin and is responsible for part of the pigmentation. The merle gene is considered an enzyme defect and leads to severe eye diseases, blindness, even the absence of eyes, numbness, balance disorders, skin problems, malformations and early death.

The harlequin gene, in combination with the merle gene, is responsible for the so-called grey tigers (grey-black spots on a white background). If the puppy has inherited the harlequin gene homozygously (from both parents) he dies as an embryo in the womb. So there are no pure Harlequin gene animals! From an ethical point of view, breeding with these genes is extremely questionable. Because the conscious combination of a deadly gene combination is against the animal protection law.

Differnet eye colour

A fascinating look, two different eye colours (iris heterochrome). Usually one eye is blue and the other is brown, green or yellow. The blue eye lacks pigmentation due to a gene mutation or rarely due to a disease of the eye. The reasons for this are the merle factor (mostly these animals are also deaf), pigment disorders, C-series (albinism) or a separate gene that is not related to the coat colour, as is the case with Siberian Husky. Bright eyes are more sensitive to light and see less well in the dark because the Tapetum Lucidum is reduced in size or not present. Then the pupil appears red when exposed to light.


Beauty has its price. But unfortunately our animals have no choice, we humans take the liberty to experiment and to breed as we please. Ultimately it is your decision whether you want a fancy pet with a genetic defect and health problems or a healthy one. Remember that your darling deserves a species-appropriate, livable and healthy life and that you want to have it at your side for a long time, don’t you? Because the problem with the gene pool is there are not any lifeguard.