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What about Albino?

Albino is a term that many people find confusing. Some think it is a synonym for white, and refer to any dogs that are white with some color as "part albino" (which isn't possible). Others know that albino animals are white with pink eyes, which is true, but not the whole story.

A pure white animal, with pale pink skin and pink eyes, is an albino (technically known as tyrosinaseG-negative). This is a recessive gene (genetic notation is "c"), so a dog would need two copies for it to show. These animals have no color whatsoever, not even skin spots. This genetic pattern is not thought to exist in dogs, and would be likely to cause deafness (since there is no pigmentG at all). One step up is a genetic pattern sometimes seen in cats. This is a pure white animal (again, no pigment of any type anywhere), but with blue eyes (c^b). It probably does not exist in dogs either (there are other genetic factors at work in a mostly white dog with blue eyes).

Tyrosinase-positive is another form of albinism. West Highland White Terriers and White German Shepherds (among others) fall into this category (White Dobermans were thought to as well, but this has recently been proven false - see Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, Inc. - Color Implications in Health). The genetic notation for these is c^e. Although they appear white, these animals are actually a very pale cream or gray color. If dogs with this genetic make-up are placed next to a dog with white trim (or a Double Merle dog), where the white is caused by a complete lack of pigment, the color difference is easier to see. These dogs do have pigment. Their eyes are dark, and their noses, lips, eyerims, and pawpads are all fully colored. Since white trim could still be possible on these dogs, the breed standards are usually very specific in calling for full pigmentation in those areas (since white trim has pink skin under it). These dogs are rarely deaf, as they normally have pigment where they need it.

The picture below is of a Samoyed and a Double Merle Australian Shepherd. We realize that Samoyeds are traditionally thought of as S^w (extreme piebald), but we doubt this for two reasons. First of all, most dogs that are homozygous for S^w (such as Dalmatians, Australian Cattle Dogs, and English Setters) have some individuals with patches. Secondly, these breeds tend to have fairly high deafness rates, which doesn't seem to be a problem with Samoyeds.

Samoyed and Double Merle Aussie

(Remember, all pictures with blue borders are links.)