Can Dogs See in the Dark? Better Than Humans Can!

Going out with your dog to a late-night bathroom break may require you to wear night-vision eyeglasses, but what’s so great is the deal with the night-vision goggles? Can dogs see in dim light? It’s surprising, really. Although they aren’t able to see in the dark (neither do our eyes) their low-light capabilities are far superior to ours.

How can a dog see in the dark?

Both dog’s and human retinas contain photoreceptors known as cones and rods. Cones are responsible for the perception of color as well as daytime vision ability. Rods aid in adjusting our eyes to low-light conditions, assisting in night vision, gray shades, and tracking movements according to Georgina Ushi Phillips DVM.

“By analyzing the number of cones and rods in the dog’s eyes and comparing them with our eyes, we can gain a clear picture of what they are seeing and the things they don’t,” Ushi Phillips adds.

Canines have about 20 rods per cone, whereas we have nine rods per cone. This means that dogs have better night vision in dim light, and humans have better color vision. (However, it’s not accurate to claim the canines are blind to color–they actually see shades of yellow and blue however they do not see red or green.) Also, dogs have larger pupils that capture more light.

Another aspect that aids the dog’s night vision are called an eye-tracking device called the tapetum lucidum. Consider it as an eye mirror that is located in the rear of their eyes which helps reflect light and increase its brightness in dim lighting. This is why the eyes of dogs glow in darkness and is a phenomenon called eyeshine. Deer, cattle, cats ferrets, horses, and deer each have a reflective coating.

How well can dogs see in the dark?

“It isn’t always easy to pinpoint the exact amount, however, studies suggest that dogs see the light five times dimly than humans,” Ushi Phillips says. The dogs also have a bigger field of view or perpendicular vision as compared to humans. This allows them to see motion more effectively. However, the depth sense they have is not as great as ours and this can affect the clarity of images.

“Most dogs have vision 20/75 This means they need to be 20 feet to be able to see the same things that humans observe at 75-foot distances,” Ushi Phillips says. The tapetum of lucid is a major reason since it can scatter light around the photoreceptors, rather than focusing it. Another reason is due to their broad vision, they do not have the optical binocularity that we have, and also reduces the perception of depth.

The dogs can compensate for any vision problems by making use of their amazing sense of smell (they are home to greater than 100 million receptors for scent) as well as their hearing (they are equipped with 18 muscles inside their ear that allow them to move in a variety of ways, and are able to deliberately block away certain sound) to focus on movements.

Can you help your dog improve its Vision?

To see specifically in the darkness? No, not at all. However, in certain breeds like beagles scientists have found they had tapetum lucidum shrinks with time. It is also more likely for them to develop cataracts as they get older as are Boston cocker spaniels, terriers pugs, and Shih Tzus.

Your dog can maintain good eyesight throughout their lives by following the doctor’s advice for a balanced diet that includes specially-formulated diets for dogs along with supplements that contain vital minerals and vitamins. Your veterinarian can explain how specific nutrients like beta-carotene, zinc, lutein, and omega-3s are important to the health of your eyes.


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