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Health & Wellness

Can dogs see color?

A dog’s rainbow is less than half the size of most humans'.

Despite popular belief, dogs don’t see in black and white. But they don’t see all the colors of the rainbow either. So how exactly do dogs see the world and what does this mean about their favorite toys? Here’s what you need to know. 

Are dogs color blind?

Technically, dogs aren’t color blind. In humans, color blindness is caused by the deficiency or lack of function in the cones of the eye. Humans can have red-green color blindness, blue-yellow color blindness or a complete inability to see color. 

A dog’s vision, on the other hand, is called dichromic vision, Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinarian at Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital, says. They have fewer color-sensitive cones than humans do — one less cone to be exact. This causes less vivid coloration of the world and an inability to see certain colors. A dog’s vision is similar to red-green color blindness in humans, but their “color blindness” isn’t due to a lack of functionality.

What colors can dogs see?

Dogs have a yellow-sensitive cone and a blue-sensitive cone. This means dogs can see shades of yellows and blues.

What colors can’t dogs see?

Dogs don’t see red or any shades of color created with red tones, Dr. Ochoa explains. Instead, these colors are seen in different hues of blues and yellows. 

The rainbow your dog sees includes a lot less colors than the one we see. The world through a dog’s eyes appears blue, yellow and gray with shades of those colors throughout.  

RELATED: Can cats see color?

Can dogs see in the dark?

“Dogs aren’t like cats, where they can easily see in the dark,” Dr. Ochoa says. This is because cats have lots of rods, the photoreceptors responsible for detecting light — even more than a human or a dog.  

But dogs still have more rods than we do, plus an extra feature called the tapetum lucidum, which is in the eyes of cats and dogs, but not humans. It’s a reflective structure that bounces light back at the light-sensitive rods for another chance to soak up light rays, Dr. Sarah McCormack, associate veterinarian at Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital, explains. While it helps vision in dim light, it also causes a decrease in the ability to clearly see objects. 

Until we train our pups to complete an eye exam, we won’t know how good their vision is at night. But, because they have more rods than most humans and a tapetum lucidum, we can presume they see better in low light than we do. 

What can dogs see that humans can't?

People love to suggest that dogs can see ghosts, but to date, there’s no scientific evidence to back up this claim. We know that dogs are amazing companions capable of smelling and hearing things that our senses can’t pick up. 

What really sets them apart from the rest when it comes to navigation any time of day, is their nose, Dr. Ochoa says. 

Dog vision vs. human vision

A dog’s view of the world is less colorful, but fuzzier than what most humans see.  

“Most dogs don't have 20/20 vision,” Dr. Ochoa explains. If you’re worried that your dog’s less-than-perfect vision is getting worse, Dr. Ochoa says to look out for signs, including bumping into objects and barking at people or other animals they know well. If so, you should contact your veterinarian to have them checked.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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