Is albinism among pugs normal and how to identify an albino pug?
Albinism is a condition characterized by the lack of melanin in an organism’s body. This is a condition that affects human beings as well. However, it is possible for any organism that produces melanin to be affected by this condition. Albinism is a rare congenital disorder brought on by the activation of recessive genes. The manifestation of this condition is the lack of functional melanin-producing cells in the body. It does not show up in every generation and that makes its occurrence difficult to predict.
What is melanin?
Melanin is the milieu of pigments that give color to hair, iris and skin. When pugs are affected by albinism, they usually have a complete lack of pigments in their skin, hair and irises. This makes the albino pugs appear completely white.
How to tell albino pugs apart from silver fawn pugs?
Silver fawn is a color among pugs that closely resembles white. This is also one of the three categories of colors accepted by the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). Silver fawns do not lack any pigments and that is very apparent from the presence of face masks, thumbprints (the oval shaped marked on the pug’s forehead) and the trace in all silver pugs.
Albino pugs however, lack all melanin and are rather “colorless” than white. This means, their irises do not appear black or dark brown, as per the accepted norm. Due to the absolute lack of melanin under the upper layers of the cornea, the color of the blood vessels feeding the iris region becomes very prominent. This renders an albino pug’s irises completely pink (-ish). They do not have a mask. Although this is a character that sets this breed apart from other small dog breeds, the lack of melanin compromises the classic pattern on an albino pug’s face.
Are albino pugs accepted by Kennel Club’s?
The American Kennel Club or AKC accepts only two kinds of colors. Fawn and black are, in reality, two broad categories that host a range of hues. The Fawn category includes all colors varying from light fawn to a dark fawn that seems close to tan. The Canadian Kennel Club or CKC accepts three major variants: silver fawn, fawn and black. Silver fawn is sometimes really close to white and more often than not, the pug puppies will be born with a complete white coat. But within the age of 7 months they assume their original color coats.
To be very blunt and technically clear, albino is not a color at all. As a matter of fact, it is a condition characterized by the complete lack of it. Hence this is not an accepted variant at any well-recognized kennel club. Since these pugs won’t be qualified for registration at any KC, their puppies won’t be certified or registered either.
Does albinism pose extra risks to your pug’s health?
Albino pugs are extremely rare. And this has given very limited chance for the people to study their health and behavior. In the limited window of observation it has been noted that, albino pugs do not lack enthusiasm or the classic “pug sense of humor”. But they are indeed plagued by added health issues.
The regular pugs we see every day with the fawn and black coats face scores of health problems brought on by selective breeding to exaggerate their features. Their eyes are “unnaturally” protruding and that makes them extremely prone to injury. Cloudy eyes, squinty eyes and scratches on the lenses are the other most common injuries seen in pugs.
In case of albino pugs the chances of eye injuries are often pronounced by the lack of melanin. The complete lack of melanin causes albino pugs to be often photo-phobic, direct sunlight causes severe pain and irritation in their eyes. Albino pugs should be taken out for walks at night or in conditions where light is minimal.
The lack of melanin in the skin removes a very important, natural sun-block from the pug’s system. The complete lack of pigments also makes the albino pugs susceptible to sunburns and UV-generated skin cancers including melanoma.
Their basic form of immunity is lower as compared to their pigmented brethrens. They are very prone to fungal infections on their skin including ringworms. Ringworm is usually caused by Trichophyton rubrum, a dead skin cell eating fungus. Dogs with albinism are also prone to dandruff caused by different types of fungal manifestations. Usually treating these can be very difficult as albino dogs have very low tolerance towards sunlight.
Is albinism always absolute?
When we call an animal albino we usually mean they are completely devoid of any pigmentation. This usually holds true for most human beings. However, for dogs, albinism can be interrupted by sudden patches of color (or the other way round). This condition is called merle.
The name comes from the merle gene responsible for creating the interrupted patterns on the dog’s coat. This is very common in Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Welsh Corgis and Great Danes. But in case of pugs this is not as common and is again, not accepted by the AKC.
In case of pugs blue eye color is occasionally seen in puppies. Although extremely rare, if a grown up pug retains the blue eye color, it is considered to be leucistic. They are valued as “rare” however, cannot be re registered at AKC due to their unnatural eye color. Accepted eye colors for pugs are just black and dark brown as per AKC norms.
The pug rockstar
Let us acquaint you with one of internet’s latest sensations whom you may have come across and loved, but rarely noticed as genetically exceptional. Internet’s answer to Grumpy Cat was Toronto’s Grumpy Dog – Cornelius. Cornelius has light blue irises and silver fawn skin without a mask. This is not albinism, what Cornelius has is an even rarer form of pigmentation – leucism. This happens when the cells that produce melanin are absent from only certain areas.
Albino pugs are different from normal pugs in quite a number of ways. They call for more care and attention owing to their lack of natural sun-protection and photophobia. But in reality, they are just as playful, intelligent and goofy as fawn and black pugs. There is no reason you should be apprehensive about adopting an albino pug puppy unless you want to train them specifically for dog-show and competition purposes.