Nov 09 2015

It Is A Dog’s World – How our dog’s eyes let them see the world

We all have 5 senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing and vision but some of our senses are more refined than others. Here is how our eyes stack up to our canine counterparts.  Have you ever wondered how your dog sees the world?  As a veterinarian in Abbotsford, I have clients ask me how well can their dog see?  We don’t have seeing eye charts for dogs, but through scientific tests we have been able to determine what the world looks like to our dogs and it is definitely a different view.


Yes our dogs can see colour but it is limited and muted compared to the colours we humans see. The perception of colour is determined by the presence of cone photoreceptors within the retina. These colour seeing cone receptors make up approximately 20% of the photoreceptors in retina of the dog, where as humans, the central retina is 100% cone photoreceptors. Behavioural tests in dogs suggest that they can distinguish yellow and blue colours but often confuse green and red.  So when buying a pet toy think BLUE & YELLOW.


Though not the masters of night vision, like our feline companions, a dog’s large pupil, and high number of light and motion sensitive cells (rods) allow our dogs in semi-darkness to see more clearly than his human companion.  It is estimated that dogs can see in light that is 5 times dimmer than our human eyes need.

Ever wonder about why dogs (and cats) have those eerie glow-in-the dark eyes that we see staring back at us in the middle of the night?  This is due to the tapetum lucidum, a mirror like membrane found behind the retina, which reflects light back, thus increasing the amount of available light to the photoreceptors and allowing our pets to see better at night than we do. Cool eh!


A dog’s vision is estimated to be roughly 20/75.  What this means is that dogs will see something as clearly at 20 feet that humans can typically see clearly at 75 feet.  Though there is variability between the different breeds and there are changes in vision with age, just like us humans!

For the final word on canine vision check out this entertaining video.

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