The Chow Chow is easy to identify compared to other breeds, and there are breed standards to ensure that Chows stay healthy and proper through generations of breeding. Merle Chow Chows are an outlier to the breed and they are not accepted within breed standards around the world.
What is a Merle Chow Chow?
A Merle Chow Chow is a Chow that has been genetically modified through irresponsible breeding, which is likely to affect their health. Merles are easily identifiable. Generally, a Merle’s coat consists of three shades of a single colour, often a lighter base with darker accents. However, this is not always the case.
What do Merle Chow Chows look like?
A Merle Chow’s coat stands apart from all other colour variations of the Chow’s breed standards (black, red, blue, fawn, cream, and certain variations of white). The most popular colour mix of a Merle Chow Chow is blue, black, and white, but it’s not unusual to see a fawn, red, and white combination. The Merle Chow’s base layer of fur tends to be white with darker colours patterned inconsistently across the body. Therefore, the Merle tends to be spotted most of the time. Because of their colouration, Merle Chows are sometimes known as ‘Oreo Chows’.
Why do Merle Chows have a unique appearance?
The Merle Chow’s unique appearance is down to their genetics. They contain the Merle gene, a known ‘dilution gene’. This gene is what gives the Merle its lighter, or mixed, coat. The Merle dilution gene is assertive and dominant and does not follow typical characteristics. Therefore, a Chow only needs one parent to carry this gene for the Merle pattern and characteristics to show.
Check out our Chow Chow Compilation Video here, can you spot the Merle Chow Chow?
Merle Chow Chows’ health issues (important)
Any health issues are entirely down to the genetic makeup of the Chow Chow, not environmental factors. If a dog is a heterozygous Merle, only one of the parents carries the Merle gene. This does not usually lead to major health problems for the puppies, other than in rare cases. If both parents carry the Merle gene, the puppy is a homozygous Merle, meaning it is extremely likely to develop or inherit health problems.
Research and studies conducted by the UK Kennel Club show unfortunate and shocking results, as you can see below. We also asked owners of homozygous Merle Chows in our ‘Chow Chow UK Community’ group on Facebook for their experiences. (They were not initially informed by their breeder of the issues with Merle Chows.)
Common homozygous Merle health problems
- Hearing impairment
- Vision impairment
- Hip dysplasia
- Liver disfunction/disease
- Heart issues
What you must know before buying any Chow Chow (important)
The Chow Chow looks just like a teddy bear or lion, so the breed is in high demand. Alongside this, an increasing number of irresponsible breeders are not ensuring their Chow Chows are bred correctly and within Kennel Club standards worldwide. Also, breeders are not making potential buyers aware of their pet’s genes.
There is a type of Merle called a Cryptic Merle. This is a Chow Chow that displays the visual characteristics of a breed standard Chow as described by the UK and American Kennel Clubs. Unfortunately, various breeders are either unaware of this genetic possibility, ignore the need for DNA testing, or lie about the genetic makeup of their Chow Chows. This has led to the creation of homozygous Merle Chows, which has caused upset, heartbreak and, in some cases, death.
As responsible Chow Chow owners who once lacked knowledge about this breed, we personally recommend you do not buy a Merle Chow Chow. From personal experience and the evidence stated above, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of excessive vet bills, heartbreak, and inconvenience. It’s important to understand that Chow Chows are brilliant, intelligent animals who feel emotional and physical pain just like us. So please, think of them when looking for a new companion.
If you have a Merle Chow Chow, or any Chow Chow it is always recommended to take some Joint Supplements which will help with general mobility of these fragile dogs.
If we educate each other and share the word about Merle Chow Chows, we can combat this bad practice together and ensure Chow Chows have a good quality of life. This being said, Merle Genes are also an issue within other dog breeds, not just Chow Chows.