What can dogs see?

April 13, 2012

Dogs are noted for their heightened senses. Dogs have ultrasensitive olfactory and auditory abilities. Primitive dogs rely on these senses to survive in the wild – to hunt food and to avoid predators. Although a dog’s eyesight is not as powerful as the scenting and the hearing abilities, the structure of the eyes makes for increased ability to focus. The eyes of most prey animals are situated at the sides of the head. This kind of structure increases the animal’s field of vision. The structure of a dog’s eyes is pretty much the same as what humans have but dogs have a wider field of vision. Also, the excellent night vision allows dogs to have the ability to focus and distinguish objects even in dim lights. This very useful ability allows dogs to hunt even in the dark. Can dogs really see much better than we can? There are many myths surrounding the dog’s ability to see. It is believed that dogs can see entities we mere humans cannot. See how dogs are often featured in horror and paranormal stories. A dog though is believed to be color blind. Which is true and which is not? What is the real seeing capability of the dog? What can dogs see?

Dog eyes are set at around 20 degrees angle which allows these animals to have an excellent field of view and peripheral vision. Some breeds like the Labradors, Saluki, Whippets and Borzoi have excellent vision but unlike humans that are blessed with 20/20 vision, dogs are known to have poorer visual acuity. Except for sight hounds, dogs cannot really see distant objects. It is commonly believed that dogs cannot see colors. The red color of a chew toy will not really be appreciated by the pet because dogs are believed to be color blind. Dog eyes are very similar to human eyes. Dog’s eyes also have the light sensitive cones and rods. The cones give the eye the ability to perceive color and to have a detailed vision. Rods on the other hand, give the eyes the ability to detect motion. Dog’s eyes, unlike humans, have more rods. This is the reason why dogs have the superior ability of detecting motion. This is the reason why dogs can run very fast even at night because compared to humans, dogs can see better in the dark. Moreover, dogs’ eyes have a structure called Tapetum Lucidium. This structure behind the retina reflects light so that the dog will have an enhanced vision in the night. However, because of the few cones, dog’s perception of color is rather poor. This gives rise to the notion that dogs cannot see color.

Studies have verified the fact that dogs can see color but they can distinguish color the way a color blind human can. This means that similar to a color blind person, dogs too have trichromatic or a dichromatic vision. The red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet colors of the rainbow will be seen by the dog as red and yellow, yellow, yellow blue, indigo and violet. While humans have three cones, dogs only have two thus they cannot see color in detail. Dogs though have the upper hand when it comes to seeing different shades of violets and blues Humans don’t have this ability as human eyes have a yellow pigmentation in the eyes that blocks wavelengths and reduces human eyes’ sensitivity to blue and violet lights.

Similar to humans, dogs too are prone to different health concerns that can impair vision. Mild irritations and infections to serious eye problems can result to permanent loss of vision. Reddened eyes, frequent eye blinking, excessive tearing and eye discharge are some of the signs of canine eye problems. A dog manifesting these symptoms must have medical attention at once to save the pet from potential health concerns that can result to blindness.