Are all white-haired animals albinos?

Filed Under: Dogs, Cats, Pocket Pets, Horses, General Care

Albinism—the lack of pigment melanin in the skin, hair and eyes—is present in most animal species, but many animals with white coats are not albinos.

Albinos have a complete lack of color pigment. Most animals with white coats have brown eyes, or possibly one blue and one brown eye. The skin around the eyelids and lips may be quite dark, even black.

Though it is generally obvious in their appearance, your veterinarian will tell you if your animal is a true albino.

Animals with albinism, which results from the body’s inability to convert the amino acid tyrosine into melanin pigment, are often at risk for other diseases.

For cows, in whom albinism is a recessive trait, a disease called Chediak-Higashi syndrome can occur, causing possibly severe immune system malfunction. This condition is also present in humans and minks. Eye defects and blindness are common in cows and horses with albinism.

White cats with one or two blue eyes are often at least partially deaf, though these cats are not necessarily albinos. Albinism is a rare trait for dogs, and is associated with eye and nervous system problems. Waardenburg syndrome— seen in dalmations, great Danes, bull terriers and collies—is associated with a white coat and blue eyes, and can often lead to deafness.

White-haired animals and albinos are very susceptible to sunburns and skin cancer. Ask your veterinarian about sun protection options for your pet.

Topics: albinism, skin conditions

Symptoms: deafness

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