Are Merle Chihuahuas Unhealthy?

Merle chihuahuas are beautiful, unique, and stunning. But are they healthy dogs as well? Are there any inherent conditions caused by the merle gene? Are Merle Chihuahuas Unhealthy?

Many chihuahua parents have heard that merle dogs generally are unhealthy and have vision and hearing issues. Is that true or just rumors? Does it rely on which kind of merle pattern the chihuahua has inherited? The simple quick answer is that a well-bred merle chihuahua with one copy of the merle gene will be as healthy as a standard chihuahua dog. If a Merle chihuahua is a so-called “double merle” however, he is likely to suffer from hearing, vision, and skin issues.
Let’s discuss the health issues associated with the merle gene in chihuahuas!

Can Merle Chihuahuas Be As Healthy As Other Chihuahuas With Solid Colors?

source: google image

Yes – Merle chihuahuas can be just as healthy as standard chihuahua dogs. They share the same life expectancy, they are just as brave energetic, and smart as their counterparts without the Merle gene.

A healthy Merle chihuahua can give birth to healthy offspring who can live a healthy long life.

Double Merles in Chihuahuas Means a Lot Of Health Issues

Double-rule chihuahuas are easy to spot thanks to their very light complexion. Characterized by the lack of pigmentation on their nose and around their eyes accompanied by white splashes. Here is an example of a double merle chihuahua:

Double merle chihuahua nose

source: google image






The vast lack of pigmentation is what makes these chihuahuas unhealthy and prone to various conditions such as :

  • Hearing weakness – ranging from light hearing deficits to complete deafness
  • Vision issues– up to complete blindness.
  • Microphthalmia: a rare condition that causes very small eyeballs. In some cases, the vet will need to remove them.
  • Skin cancer- because of the lack of pigmentation, leading to a lack of protection from UV light

The levels of these conditions will vary depending on the double merle gene that the chihuahua carries. While Some chihuahuas are stillborn or pass away soon after their birth. Some fail to thrive and never reach the quality of life of their counterparts.

Others can live normally, reaching the full size of their littermates, and being able to do all the normal activities including going for a walk and learning new tricks.

The hearing and vision issues can lead to additional issues, especially social problems. For instance, the owner of a Merle chihuahua will notice that the tiny dog can’t communicate appropriately with other pets, struggles with fear and anxiety, and can’t be off-leash because of the lack of a good recall.

Due to not hearing and seeing well,  merle chihuahua will often be frightened and surprised. For this reason, Owners have to take a very careful approach when it comes to training these stunning dogs. You will need to show them that the world is safe and friendly.

Is the Merle gene In chihuahuas That bad?


merle chihuahua

source: google image

As long as a merle chihuahua has only one copy of the merle gene, this is acceptable and not unhealthy at all. The problem only emerges when a chihuahua has two copies of the merle gene and is a double merle – therefore the dog will face different health issues.

You should keep in mind that many extremely healthy, athletic, and smart dogs including chihuahuas are merle, such as many dogs in dog agility sports. Some of them have even won the Agility World Championship – This is a clear sign that the Merle gene is not unhealthy or bad!

We can’t control the birth of merle chihuahuas even if the parents have solid colors. Simply because certain colorings can hide the merle pattern. In some cases, breeding two standard chihuahuas with solid colors can lead to accidental merle-to-merle breedings. Some chihuahuas appear to not be merle, But genetically they can. In addition, Mating two chihuahuas that carry the merle gene (but don’t appear), could be unwanted merle-to-merle breeding, leading to double merle puppies.

The Last Word

A chihuahua with a single copy of a merle gene is not less healthy than his solid-colored counterpart. Double merle chihuahuas however are in an unwanted situation. They are highly affected by their two copies of the merle gene. 

Some merle chihuahua puppies are stillborn and do not survive the first weeks of their life. Others can live longer. But have a difficult life with vision and hearing issues and can easily develop skin cancer. The extreme lack of pigmentation that we can notice in these chihuahuas is not healthy – You have to avoid double-merle breeding by all means.

If you doubt that your chihuahuas carry the Merle gene, you can perform a genetic test to determine whether only one of them has the Merle gene.

Unfortunately, some breeders strive to breed merle dogs for Marketing reasons, “high demand merle dog breeds” and the lack of knowledge of the new chihuahua owners. They often avoid doing health testing on the parents or even breed chihuahuas with known issues in their lines. 


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1 Comment

  • Thank you for intresting facts about merle chihuahua. In Sweden where I live, they are not improved. I have bought a female brown merle chihuahua age 4.6 years, two former owners has bred her, what I know twice. And she had only 3 puppies that survived. I am not gonna breed her. She is just my princess, but bying her made me intrested in the M gene, to find out as much as I can. Found you on Pinterest. Thank’s again!
    Kind regards Evalena

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