11 Dog Eyesight Facts That Will Surprise You (And Your Cat!)

Share this article with someone?

I always heard (the lie) that dogs don’t see colors; only black and white. So, I was as surprised as you’re going to be to learn these surprising dog eyesight facts.

In this post, I will share 11 dog eyesight facts that will make you see your dog in a whole new way (pun intended)!

You will be even more surprised once you learn that little is known about how dogs visually perceive their external environment, as mentioned in this article from School of Psychology and Public Health.

Enjoy this intriguing read and tell me in the comments which of these facts surprised you the most!

By Mila Bander.

Professional writer and researcher just as in love with dogs as the next girl. Has fostered/babysitted dogs for neighbors and loved every second of it.

Affiliate Disclosure

This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission from qualifying purchases made through these links. This is at no extra cost to you.

Dogs Do See Color, Actually

Many used to believe that dogs can’t see color, that they can only see in black and white. That’s a myth.

Besides black and white, dogs can see different shades of blue, yellow, green and of course, gray. The color receptors in dog’s eyes prevent them from seeing colors the same way humans do, but they do see colors.

Dogs have less color sensitive cone receptors, so their vision is similar to that of a red-green colorblind person.

On the other hand, dogs are more sensitive to sepias and pastels than humans.

For example, they can distinguish between different shades of gray that might appear the same to humans.

It can be said that dogs are colorblind, as they see the world as deuteranopes. This post explains this more in depth with example pictures.

🐶 Pro tip: The next time you buy things for your dog, you might want to buy them something yellow, purple or blue.

They might give that toy more of their attention!

Dogs Don’t See Things as Sharply As Humans Do

Humans with 20/20 vision can see what the average person can see from a distance of 20 feet.

Dogs have a vision range of 20/60 to 20/75.

This means that what they see at 20 feet is similar to what a human sees at 60 to 75 feet.

As a result, their vision is a little less clear than humans’.

The Reason Dog Eyes “Light Up” In the Dark

It’s ok. You don’t need to be scared to be in the dark with your dog anymore. The reason dog eyes go “neon” when hit by a flashlight in the dark is called ‘tapetum lucidum’.

The tapetum lucidum is a mirror-like layer located right behind the retina of the dog.

This unique structure allows dogs to make the most of little light.

The term tapetum lucidum comes from Latin words that mean “carpet of light”.

According to John Bradshaw in his book ‘Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend’, as light enters the eye, it strikes the retina and then reflects off the tapetum.

Because of the tapetum lucidum, when light (such as a car headlight or flashlight) hits the dog’s eyes, they shine.

Dogs Have Whiskers Over Their Eyes for An Important Purpose

Those whiskers (known as ‘supraorbital whiskers’) on top of your dog’s eyes warn them when something is coming close, so they can shut their eyes just before it reaches them.

Dogs Have Great Peripheral Vision

While us humans can see roughly 180 degrees of our range of view with our peripheral vision, dogs can see roughly 240 degrees.

This is due to the fact that dog’s eyes are spaced further apart, allowing them to see objects that we humans must turn our heads to look at.

The extent of their peripheral vision, on the other hand, differs between breeds and individual dogs.

Because of their long, thin noses and the position of their eyes, sighthounds (such as Greyhounds and Rhodesian Ridgebacks) have superb peripheral vision, with some being able to see up to 290 degrees.

Dogs Have a Third Eyelid

When the dog is awake and alert, the third eyelid is tucked in a corner and is hardly visible.

When your dog is asleep, however, you may notice the third eyelid.

The third eyelid can also be noticed in dogs who aren’t feeling well.

dog eyesight facts

Dogs Can See in The Dark

Am I the only one who didn’t know that dogs can see in the dark?

I thought only cats could do that. But it turns out dogs can see very well at night.

Now you know that dogs have excellent night vision, but do you know how good?

In low or dark lighting, they can see seven times better than humans.

This is due in part to the “tapetum” I already mentioned.

But that’s not all; dogs also have larger pupils and more light receptors (called “rods”) than humans.

Which means they pick up and take in more light than us.

These features also help dogs see (way) better than us in the dark.

Dogs See in Ultraviolet

A study by the Department of Optometry and Visual Science in the City University of London, showed the incredible fact that dogs (as well as cats, ferrets, hedgehogs and other animals) can see in ultraviolet. 

Dogs have special UV-sensitive lenses that allow them to perceive a wider spectrum of wavelengths.

Swelling Under A Dog’s Eye May Be Due To A Tooth Problem

Dogs have large upper carnassial teeth with long roots that reach below their eyes.

A dog’s carnassial tooth abscess has been reported to create swelling under the eye, which can be mistaken for an eye disease.

There are also other problems that dogs can face regarding their eyes, such as abnormal growth of eyelashes that cause irritation in the cornea.

Dogs with long hair are prone to have their eyes continually irritated, putting them at risk for diseases such as chronic conjunctivitis, corneal ulceration and several other eye problems, as explained by Michael W. Fox.

Dogs Use Their Eyes in Communication.

You have probably noticed how dogs will give humans the side eye, also known as “whale eyes” sometimes.

It’s not unintentional.

Dogs have body language and facial expressions as much as us humans do, and they often show how they’re feeling (happy, upset, anxious, etc) with their eyes, too.

When dogs are angry or scared, they can show the whites of their eyes more.

Dogs “See” More with Their Noses Than Their Eyes

If after reading this post, you feel sorry for dogs, don’t! Dogs can smell so many times better than humans, they probably feel sorry for us and our mediocre noses.

When you’re walking a dog, and they’re walking around sniffing everything, it’s because they can learn and gather a lot of information by just smelling things.

They might not see you clearly from very afar, but rest assured they can smell you.

Dogs can even smell diseases and fear in humans, not to mention finding objects, missing people and also other animals.

Photo by Ton.