Addressing The "Blue Dogs Have Health Issues" Myth

If you're here on this page there's a good chance you've heard someone tell you "Don't get a blue dog! They have health issues!" or "All blue dogs have skin issues!" I want to address this, because it's something that gets said A LOT by people that have zero experience with blue dogs and it couldn't be any farther from the truth! It's time to kick these outdated ideas to the curb once and for all!

First of all, let's discuss how dogs "become" blue. Genetically, blue Staffords are black. In addition to the genes that code a dog for their base color, there is a separate gene that affects the amount of melanin in each piece of fur. Less melanin creates the gorgeous gray color that we all know and love as blue. This gene is the dilution gene, which we will call D. Dilution is a recessive gene so dogs must get two copies (DD), one from each parent, in order to be dilute (blue). A dog carrying only one copy of the dilution gene (Dd) will be black (or whatever other base color the dog genetically is), but can produce blue puppies if crossed to another carrier or blue dog. Remember punnett squares in genetics class? Well, that will come in handy to show you the likelihood of producing blue puppies when crossing carrier dogs to carrier dogs, or carrier dogs to blue dogs. If two blue dogs are crossed, all of the puppies will be blue by default. These blue to blue breedings are the primary types of breedings I do here at Wild Blue Staffords.

Okay, so now you're going to say "But I've heard that blue to blue breedings are the worst kind! Why do you do that?" Well, I'll tell you why. But first, let's discuss the supposed health issues that brought us to this conversation in the first place.

Let's get one thing straight here right off the bat: There is only ONE *potential* health issue related to a dog being blue. ONE. Singular. Not multiple. Not many. Not even plural. There is only ONE. A blue Stafford's risk of other health issues unrelated to being blue is exactly the same as any other color of Stafford. While many blue dogs do come from bad breeders that aren't testing their breeding stock for testable health issues, or breeding dogs that have allergies or other skin issues, being blue in and of itself does NOT predispose a dog to more health issues than other colors of Staffords. Read that again if you need to. The likelihood of your pup developing health issues has to do with the level of care a breeder is taking in testing for testable health issues and not breeding dogs that are affected with untestable health issues like allergies or other skin issues. ANY color of Stafford can have allergies or skin issues!

Now, for the one potential health issue that can be associated with blue dogs. This one *potential* health issue is a condition called Color Dilution Alopecia, or CDA. I say potential, because in my experience, it is absolutely avoidable. CDA is a disease that reduces the melanin in the fur so much that the fur becomes brittle and is prone to breaking and falling out, creating bald spots or patches in the coat. There is no cure for CDA and there is no genetic test available for this disease. So at this point, the best way of avoiding CDA is to only breed dogs that you know are not affected and that you know have a family history of not being affected. Literally the only way you can do this is to breed only blue dogs. When you produce blue puppies by crossing two black dilution carriers, or by crossing a black carrier to a blue dog, you've got absolutely no idea what the likelihood of producing CDA in those pups will be. You can't know. Because you've got no idea if your black dog(s) would express CDA if they had the 2nd copy of the D gene. Furthermore, if your carrier black dog comes from a long line of carrier black dogs, you have absolutely no idea what the familial history of CDA is. None. But if you breed two blue unaffected dogs with family histories of not being affected, the likelihood of producing affected puppies is very low.

We do not know what the actual mode of inheritance is for this disease, but we can greatly reduce the risk over time and multiple generations if we only breed unaffected dogs. And at this point in time, we have no way of knowing whether dogs that are not phenotypically (visually) blue are affected or not since it is something that you must visually assess in a phenotypically blue dog in the absence of a genetic test for the disease. This is no different than how we bred away from diseases like HC and L2HGA before we had genetic tests for those diseases.

So, now we are back to the question of why do I only do blue to blue breedings. Well, as you now know, the only true health issue associated with blue Staffords specifically over other colors is CDA, and the only way currently to limit the production of CDA is to breed from unaffected parents with a family history of not being affected. So that is what I do. I select dogs from lines that I know are not affected by CDA, and I only breed those dogs once I have them in front of me and know they are also not affected. I keep puppies from most of my litters so that I can carry on with dogs that I know are not affected by CDA and have more than one generation of not being affected behind them. Until we have a clear genetic test for this disease, this is the most effective way of preventing it. None of my breeding dogs are affected by CDA and to my knowledge I have never produced a puppy that is affected by CDA.

So now that you're armed with this knowledge about health in blue Staffords and what I am doing to prevent health issues, you can comfortably get that blue Stafford puppy you have been dreaming about without worrying that it'll be an unhealthy dog!

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