Are dogs colourblind?

Are Dogs Colour-blind?


Sable Maltese X ShihTzu puppy in the patio

It is a common assumption by many dog owners that their pups are blind to colours or colour-blind. This is not an entirely correct notion because these pets do not view the world in black and white though their colour vision differs from that of humans. The science behind our dogs’ vision and what we can do to help their eyesight are as follows:


Colours Dogs Can See


According to the Optics and Physiology of Vision the richness of vision is dependent on the amount colour cones (where colour vision is based- specifically the amount of pigment found in the retina), and the degree of their overlap. Humans have three classes of cones and are therefore trichromatic. Dogs on the other hand, are dichromatic because their eyes contain just two classes of cones containing a photo pigment that allows them to see colour.

Dogs and horses, like most colour blind people are missing either their green or red photo pigment according to the Optics and Physiology of Vision.  Documenting dogs’ capabilities of seeing can be challenging though we know they do have those capabilities. Their capacity to differentiate between colours is not like ours because their greens are muted, but they’re able to select toys based off of colours says Fahrer Christin, Diplomate ACVO, MS, DVM.

Despite the fact that dogs do not perceive colours like humans do, they do not appear to be affected negatively by this apparent lack in colour perception. According to William Miller Diplomate ACVO, MS, DVM, dogs are able to see longer light wavelengths in low conditions of light. And this is something that carries great benefits for any predator hunting in conditions like that.

Do Dogs Really Require Colour Vision?

“A dog’s retina is built to focus on movement for survival so for as long as they can focus on a prey running, they don’t care what they colour of the prey is – brown or blue or green. Therefore dogs’ colour vision is good enough for them. It’s like a gift – we don’t know if they’re really in need of colour vision to function.” says Dr Fahrer.

Also, according to Dr Fahrer, a dog’s sense of smell is powerful enough that visual cues are often superseded by it. When we offer foods or intend to give a treat to our dogs, we know how to use this to our favour. We can also learn to use this – visual cues – to enhance playtime with our dogs. High colour contrast balls and toys – orange and neon – are superb options to use when you play with your dog.

Good healthcare –

Feeding your dog a balanced, healthy diet and giving your dog proper exercise are among the best things you can do for your dog’s vision and wellbeing, according to Dr Miller who also said that there is some anecdotal evidence to support retinal boosting by feeding antioxidants. But his major recommendation in looking after your dog’s eyesight is a good diet and good veterinary care.


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