Microphthalmia (Discovered in the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier)

Microphthalmia is an eye disorder present from birth where affected puppies to have abnormally small and underdeveloped eyes.

Found in

1 in 5,000 dogs

in our testing

Key Signs

Microphthalmia, Coloboma, Choroidal hypoplasia, Blindness

Age of Onset

At birth

Present at birth


Autosomal Recessive

For autosomal recessive disorders, dogs with two copies of the variant are at risk of developing the condition. Dogs with one copy of the variant are considered carriers and are usually not at risk of developing the disorder. However, carriers of some complex variants grouped in this category may be associated with a low risk of developing the disorder. Individuals with one or two copies may pass the disorder-associated variant to their puppies if bred.

Likelihood of the Condition

High likelihood

At risk dogs are highly likely to show signs of this disease in their lifetime.

What to Do

Here’s how to care for a dog with Microphthalmia

Partner with your veterinarian to make a plan regarding your dog’s well-being, including any insights provided through genetic testing. If your pet is at risk or is showing signs of this disorder, then the first step is to speak with your veterinarian.

For Veterinarians

Here’s what a vet needs to know about Microphthalmia

Puppies affected with this congenital eye disease suffer from bilateral microphthalmia (small and underdeveloped eyes) and blindness. Affected puppies may also have notch-like halos (coloboma) in their retina and choroidal hypoplasia. In milder forms of the disease, puppies are neither blind nor exhibit microphthalmia, but have coloboma and choroidal hypoplasia.

Owners may find that it is helpful to keep the dog's main environment as stable as possible (avoid moving furniture, etc.) to help them navigate. Owners should be advised that their dog may need assistance in unfamiliar surroundings.

For Breeders

Planning to breed a dog with this genetic variant?

There are many responsibilities to consider when breeding dogs. Regardless of test results it is important that your dog is in good general health and that you are in a position to care for the puppies if new responsible owners are not found. For first time or novice breeders, advice can be found at most kennel club websites.

This disease is autosomal recessive meaning that two copies of the mutation are needed for disease signs to develop. A carrier dog with one copy of the Microphthalmia mutation can be safely bred with a clear dog with no copies of the Microphthalmia mutation. About half of the puppies will have one copy (carriers) and half will have no copies of the Microphthalmia mutation. Puppies in a litter which is expected to contain carriers should be tested prior to breeding. Carrier to carrier matings are not advised as the resulting litter may contain affected puppies. Please note: It is possible that disease signs similar to the ones caused by the Microphthalmia mutation could develop due to a different genetic or clinical cause.

Technical Details

Gene RBP4
Variant Deletion
Chromosome 28
Coordinate Start 7,830,262
Coordinate End 7,830,260

All coordinates reference CanFam3.1

References & Credit

Credit to our scientific colleagues:

Kaukonen, M., Woods, S., Ahonen, S., Lemberg, S., Hellman, M., Hytönen, M. K., … Lohi, H. (2018). Maternal Inheritance of a Recessive RBP4 Defect in Canine Congenital Eye Disease. Cell Reports, 23(9), 2643–2652. View the article