Small white and brown dog wearing glasses and holding a large pencil.

See the world through your dog’s eyes

Get a dog’s-eye view by understanding how your dog sees differently than you

As pet parents, it’s easy to spend a lot of time wondering what your dog is thinking in any given situation. But have you ever thought about what your dog sees through her eyes? Things are a bit different for our furry friends. Here’s what you need to know about your dog’s vision.

Dogs see fewer colors and they see better than humans in the dark

The two main components of the retina that process light are called rods and cones. Rods are responsible for interpreting low-light vision, while cones are responsible for processing bright light and color vision.

Dogs have eyes that are rod-dominant, which means they have more rods than cones in the retina. As a result, dogs see much better in low-light environments than humans.1

Also, because dogs have fewer cones, they have limited color vision. As humans, we can’t be sure what dogs see, experts believe that blue and purple colors are most prominent. Green, yellow and red colors tend to blend together and appear the same.

What eye conditions can affect your pet?

Like humans, pets can have a number of eye conditions that may require maintenance or treatment. Common eye conditions include:

  1. Conjunctivitis (pink eye)2 – a bacterial or viral infection characterized by redness, inflammation, and excessive amounts of discharge from the eye; very common and usually a result of other conditions
  2. Cataracts3 – a blockage of light from entering the back of the eye, resulting in poor vision or blindness; can be hereditary or a result of other eye defects or other conditions, such as diabetes.
  3. Progressive retinal atrophy4 – causes dogs to gradually become blind even though their eyes look quite normal; hereditary condition
  4. Glaucoma5 – increased pressure in the eyes, causing pain, redness, increased tear production, and cloudiness in the eye; hereditary condition, can result in blindness
  5. Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or dry eye7 – occurs when fewer tears are produced by the tear glands, which leads to dry, irritated eyes, and often irreversible damage to the eye. Early detection and diagnosis by your pet’s veterinarian could save your pet’s vision.

Breeds most likely affected

While it’s possible for any dog can develop eye conditions, spaniels, huskies, poodles, collies, terriers, and other short-nosed breeds are more prone to issues with their eyes.6

It’s important to keep up with all aspects of your pet’s health, but eye health might not be at the top of the list of health concerns you might consider. Talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s eye health and schedule an optical exam if you or your veterinarian have concerns.


  1. Curiosities: How well do dogs see at night? University of Wisconsin.
  2. Disorders of the Conjunctiva in Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual.
  3. Disorders of the Lens in Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual.
  4. Disorders of the Retina, Choroid, and Optic Disk (Ocular Fundus) in Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual.,-choroid,-and-optic-disk-ocular-fundus-in-dogs.
  5. Glaucoma. Merck Veterinary Manual.
  6. Inherited Canine Eye Disorders. AnimaLabs.
  7. Nasolacrimal and Lacrimal Apparatus. Merck Veterinary Manual.

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