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The Dilution Gene

The dilution gene occurs on the D locus. It is recessive, so d is dilute and D is non-dilute, and in order for a dog to be dilute it must have the genotype dd. A dog that is Dd or DD will have normal (non-dilute) pigment.

The dilution gene affects eumelanin (black and liver), although phaeomelanin (red) may be lightened as well. When a dog has two copies of the d allele, a black dog will become blue (aka slate) and a liver (chocolate) dog becomes isabella (aka lilac). A blue or isabella can have any coat pattern, but whatever they have, any black or liver in the coat will be turned to blue or isabella. It is genetically impossible for a blue dog to have any black in its coat, or for an isabella to have liver.

The main giveaway that a dog is a dilute is generally its nose colour. The coat may be entirely sable or recessive red for example, but if the dog has a blue nose, it is genetically blue-pigmented.

nose nose

Black nose (left) and blue nose (right).

Isabella, however, is slightly trickier. The dogs below show nicely-pigmented liver and isabella noses, but it's common for both colours to have very light, even pink, noses, and it is also common for isabellas to have darkish noses that look like liver. It is therefore very difficult to tell a liver from an isabella unless there is some liver/isabella in the coat

nose nose

Liver nose (left) and isabella nose (right). Most isabella noses aren't this dark, but they can be The dilution gene also causes the eyes to lighten to amber. The colour is likely to be paler than the amber eyes seen on liver dogs.

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