How Well Can Your Dog See In The Dark?

Many people mistakenly believe that dogs are totally colorblind. We’ve addressed this in a previous article here on the WoofPost and talked about how it’s a bit complicated.

But what about night vision? Just how well can dogs see in the dark compared to humans?

Dogs, just like humans, have specialized cells in their retinas: cones to perceive color and rods for light and dark. While dogs have less of the cone types of cells, meaning they don’t process color as well as humans, they have many more rods, allowing them to see in very low light much better than we do.

In fact, it’s estimated that a dog’s night vision is five times better than a humans, meaning they need just one fifth of the light we need to see an object clearly. 

Another reason they see better at night involves a structure called the tapetum. This is located at the back of the eye and serves to reflect light back into the light sensitive cells. The tapetum is also why your dog’s eyes have that eerie greenish glow when the light hits them just right.

Also, a dog’s vision starts to deteriorate with age. Plus, they cannot see in total darkness, as their eyes have to have some source of light, however dim, to activate the retinal cells. 

So leave a nightlight on for your dog at night so he can find his way around. This is especially important if your dog is older or already has a known vision problem such as cataracts.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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