As a proud pup owner, you’re likely interested in knowing all there is to know about your precious dog—and that includes how your dog sees the world. Understanding how dogs see is a task that scientists have been focused on for a long time, and they have a pretty good idea now of how your dog’s eyes work.
While dogs see many things in a similar fashion to humans, they certainly don’t see everything the same. Dogs sense motion more clearly, see better at night, and distinguish fewer colors than humans do. Let’s look more closely at how a dog’s vision works.
The Parts of a Dog’s Eye
A dog’s eye is made up of several parts, most of which humans also have in their eyes. However, there are a few differences as well.
- Conjunctiva: The lining around the edges of the eyes—this is where a dog’s eyes might become inflamed and redden from allergies, injury, or excitement.
- Nictitating Membrane: This “third eyelid” is located at the corner of the eye nearest the nose and helps a dog produce tears and protect the eye from scratches.
- Cornea: This is the thin, clear outer layer of the eye.
- Sclera: The “white” of the eye, a fibrous layer.
- Iris: The colored part of the eye which is made of smooth muscles that regulate the amount of light that enters the pupil.
- Pupil: The black part in the center of the eye that dilates in dim light and contracts in bright light.
- Lens: This area behind the iris changes shape to focus light on the retina.
- Retina: This is located in the back of the eye and is full of photoreceptors called rods (sensing light and movement) and cones (sensing color).
- Tapetum Lucidum: The area behind the retina that reflects further light back to the retina’s rods, allowing dogs to see more clearly in the dark. (This also causes dogs’ eyes to glow in the dark or when you take a picture of them with flash photography.)
Just like human eyes, dog eyes come in many colors: brown, hazel, golden, or blue. Brown is the dominant color found in dogs’ eyes, though the color ultimately depends on the breed and genetics of each particular dog.
How Dogs See the World
Now that you understand the parts of a dog’s eye, let’s consider how they actually see the world around them.
Unlike humans, dogs don’t have 20/20 vision. Instead, theirs is closer to 20/50 or 20/75 vision—meaning that they must be 20 feet from an object to see it though a human could see it at 50 or 75 feet away.
In general, dogs have blurrier vision than humans do and can’t distinguish between shapes as well. If dogs were humans, they might be considered “near-sighted.”
However, with more rods in their eyes, dogs are much better at picking up movement—10 to 20 times better than humans. For example, though a human would perceive a flickering light moving 60 times a second as steady light, dogs can see flickering up to 75 times per second.
Dogs’ eyes are spaced farther apart than human eyes, allowing them to see more in their side vision than humans generally do. Also, dogs have more rods in their eyes, larger pupils, and a lens closer to the retina, all of which (along with the tapetum lucidum) allow dogs to see better in the dark.
Are Dogs Colorblind?
You may have heard that dogs are colorblind and see primarily in shades of gray. However, this is not strictly true. Actually, dogs can see dichromatically, which means they have a cone to perceive blue and a cone to perceive shades of yellow.
Basically, dogs see as well as a human who is red-green colorblind. They pick up on shades of blue and yellow but not red and green. In addition, some studies suggest that dogs can see ultraviolet light, though how this might work practically is not well understood.
Is Your Dog Watching TV?
It is possible that your dog is watching TV along with you? It’s likely that they can distinguish between dogs and humans on the TV screen. Although what they see is probably a bit blurrier than what you see, they might still enjoy watching the movement of animals and humans on a TV screen.
Dog Eye Problems To Watch For
Just like humans, dogs can get various eye injuries or diseases that cause them vision problems. There are a few common ones to watch for.
- Cataracts (cloudy film over the eyes)
- Corneal ulcers (these develop from infected scratches)
- Dry eye (lack of proper lubrication)
- Glaucoma (fluid builds up in the eye)
- Cherry eye (reddish tear duct tissue pops up into the visible area of the eye)
- Entropion (eyelashes curl inward and scrape the eye, causing irritation)
- Conjunctivitis (redness and itching from a malfunctioning or damaged conjunctiva)
- Foreign irritation (something gets stuck in the dog’s eye)
While some of these infections can be cleared through antibiotics, most of them need surgery for proper repair. If your dog is showing signs of eye irritation such as squinting, excessive blinking, excessive tears, pink eyes, cloudy eyes, or pawing at their eyes, speak to your vet to see what care they may need.
Do Dogs See Better Than Humans?
Dogs don’t see better than humans—at least not in every area. They can see better in the dark and notice more motion, but they don’t see as many colors and can’t see as clearly as humans do.
Ultimately, it’s not that dogs see worse than humans, it’s just that they see differently. Their eyes allow them to survive better in the world of canines while ours allow us to survive better in the world of humans. It’s really as simple as that.
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