I’d been wondering different things about dogs and their eyesight lately, for a couple of reasons. We considered that some of the reason Luke seems aggressive with our cat Samantha at times is because he is not recognizing her in low light situations. Also, when Cricket had her recent wellness exam at the vet, it was confirmed she has cataracts just barely starting, which we suspected due to some cloudiness in her eyes. The vet noted that she is probably having difficult seeing, though we’ve seen no sign of that.
My research turned up some different interesting facts about dogs and their eyesight:
- Their eyes consist of the dark center (pupil) surrounded by the iris (colored ring), with the white sclera on the outside of that. All dogs’ eyes are a shade of brown, with some having one or two blue eyes. The muscles that attach to the iris open or close the lens, letting in more or less light.
- The prominent “third eyelid” (nicitating membrane) is in the bottom part of the eye between the lower eyelid and the globe. It offers protection for the eyeball and removes foreign bodies. It is normally concealed beneath their eyelid except in the cases of certain diseases, after general anesthesia, and when there is an eye irritation. I’ve often seen it as well when one of the dogs is falling asleep – has anyone else noticed that? It can be kind of freaky looking!
- Lashes on the upper eyelid also help to keep debris out. Like humans, those lashes seem to be more prominent on some dogs than others. Sheba’s are especially pretty, but harder to see because they are blonde.
- My hubby always told me that dogs could see fine in the dark. I had known that about cats, but not dogs. It turns out he was completely right (yes, I just told my hubby he was right – write that down, honey!).
- Dogs evolved as nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn & dusk) predators, which led to them having well-developed night vision and an enhanced ability to detect movement. That does mean that the sharpness of their vision is possibly up to 6 times less than humans’. A larger lens and corneal surface helps with their night vision. Behind the retina is a reflective surface called the tapetum which further enhances their night vision. That reflection is the glow you sometimes see when taking a flash photo of your dog.
- Dogs don’t see the colors that humans see, they most likely only see yellows, blues, and greys.
- The lateral placement of a dogs’ eyes gives them better wide angle vision, but hinders their depth perception and close up viewing. That could be why they say a dog can easily catch a ball moving sideways but maybe not if you throw it directly at their nose. Luke would like to take exception to that thought….we did our own little experiment and he had no trouble catching a ball thrown directly at his nose!
- Cataracts are common in aging dogs. They are caused by a hardening of the lens, just as in humans, and that leads to reduction in vision and nearsightedness. I haven’t seen any sign of that with Cricket. She still catches the ball like a professional, whether it’s thrown near or far.
What I do also notice with all of the dogs is that they see with far more than just their eyes. They use their noses and ears to “see” as well. If Cricket does lose sight of the flying ball, and it hits the fence, she can follow that sound to exactly where the ball is. She also spends much time tracking the ball with her nose. If she loses sight and sound of it, her nose goes right to the ground to track it down.
The best way to care for your dogs’ eyes is probably the same way we care for their overall health:
- Get plenty of exercise, a natural anti-oxidant, which keeps the oxygen moving through their eyes clearing toxins out.
- Provide them with proper nutrition including antioxidants such as Vitamins B, C, E, and beta-carotene; all found in green leafy and colorful vegetables.
- Provide them with proper hydration; the membranes of the eye are susceptible to drying if a dog becomes dehydrated.
What does all of this mean for us, other than being interesting? I feel like it’s unlikely that Luke has trouble seeing Sam at night. I think he just has a tendency to “shoot first and ask questions later” as I often say. He reacts without thinking. He’s been fine with Sam many times, and he often just ignores her when I bring him into the room with her on leash. I think he just wants to play at times; and his play mode can be rough sometimes. We’ll continue to be cautious with them before Sam is given full run of the house though. It could be he’s not seeing her clearly when she’s close up, but by then he should be able to smell her. We will also discuss it with his vet at his next visit, though Luke does not take well to any kind of vet exam, which is another whole issue.
We really don’t see any sign of Cricket having difficulty seeing. There are rare occasions where she’s hunting down the ball and misses it; so maybe. We’ll just keep an eye on her (excuse the pun) for signs of worsening. Surgery for cataracts isn’t always recommended for dogs, but it’s something we want to monitor with our vet.
One thing I do know for sure? The eyes are definitely the window to the soul, and one of my dogs’ most beautiful features.
Do you think your dog sees better with their nose or ears than their eyes?
Most of my research came from this article, and you can read more there as well: Whole Dog Journal: Structure of the Canine Eye.
This was a great post. Very informative and thanks for the research link.
Eyes are amazing. An interesting thing I learned when our cat became diabetic is that dogs with diabetes are prone to developing cataracts. Cataracts do not tend to be a problem for diabetic cats. I agree, the nictitating membrane can be a bit weird looking.
It is very interesting the differences between cats and dogs too, I did read that about dogs and diabetes. Those differences might make for some interesting future posts too.
2 Brown Dawgs says
There are eye conditions other than cataracts that can effect vision and they will affect low-light vision. You can always have Luke’s eyes screened by a canine ophthalmologist. If you have it done at a clinic at a show, it is only like $40.
Thunder has the start of geriatric cataracts, found by the ophthalmologist on his last eye cerf. They are in a spot where she felt it was unlikely to ever affect his vision. I guess meaning likely he will not be around when they get to a spot to cause vision issues.
I think if we wanted to know more about Cricket’s eyes, seeing an opthamologist would definitely be in order (if we even have one around here). But until she shows more signs of problems, we’re not going to worry about it. But I think having Luke’s eyes checked might definitely be in order, if we can get him to let anyone close enough to do it!
Good information! I’ll be curious to see what the vet says when you get to ask about their eyes! I know that everyone always says that scent is a dog’s strongest sense–and I know Barley certainly uses her sniffer–but she’s a total visual creature. She’s always scanning for birds, squirrels, other dogs and once her sight locks on something, it is very difficult to get her to budge from that spot where it’s really easy to get her away from a good scent. Noseworks has helped make her less focused on the visual, but scent is still not her go-to sense for understanding her world.
I think the breed might make a difference as to which sense is the strongest too. Cricket and Luke both definitely follow their noses, but Sheba seems to use all of her senses equally. That could definitely be something interesting to look into as well – which breeds use which senses more.
Dolly the Doxie says
I’m definitely a nose dog! Taffy sees a rabbit first, but I won’t see it until I smell it, if not I never see it! Love Dolly
Luke supposedly has dachschund in his DNA too, he also definitely seems to be a nose dog!
M. K. Clinton says
This is really interesting. I love looking onto Bentley’s eyes. It is one of the ways we communicate and say “I love you” without speaking the words. ♥
Sand spring chesapeakes says
Great post! Certain breeds can have genetic eye problems like chessies can have pra which leads to night blindness. I’m glad crickets cataracts aren’t causing her a problem as usually old age cataracts develop slowly so they adapt to the slow change in vision.
That is great to know, thank you. Maybe that is why she is not showing any signs for reduced vision…she’s just adapting to it.
The Island Cats says
Very interesting! We’ll have to do some research about cats’ eyes. 🙂
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
OMG! I was just reading all that “technical” stuff about the structure of the eyes (and ears) this morning in the 4th stage of my course! It is quite interesting when you start getting into it, isn’t it?!
Callie had beautiful, blonde eyelashes, too! A bit long for a dog, I thought, but really beautiful. Shadow’s are pretty, too; but not quite like her sister’s.
Well, you might have to be the source I go to for any future posts…ears might be on the agenda! 🙂
Ann Staub says
So far, Shiner is just losing her hearing and I haven’t noticed any vision loss! My vet always told patients the cloudiness is just a part of normal aging and not a sign of cataracts. It usually means they will have worsened depth perception. You shared some excellent info about eyes. They are important! Shiner also does that “shoot first” thing sometimes.
That is good to know about the cloudiness in their eyes. Our beagle Kobi had that, along with runny eyes, but nothing was ever found wrong with them. I tend to think it’s just normal aging with Cricket too, since she doesn’t show any signs of vision loss.
Two French Bulldogs says
We gots our own ophthalmologist
Lily & Edward
Good for you! I’m not sure we even have one around here. 🙁
Thanks for all of the info! I don’t know much about the eyes of canines, but thankfully, the eyes in canines was my Vet’s specialty. (From what I understand, Shelties are prone to eye issues, I am praying that doesn’t happen)
Groovy Goldendoodles says
Great facts about an important body part! Harley I would say sees with his eyes, Jax sees more with his ears. There were a few facts you listed that really surprised me. The Boys have super long lashes, the groomer rarely trims them, because I like them long, I had no idea their length actually served a purpose.
Those are some fun facts about dog eyes. We knew some of them but some were new. I know we are scent hounds and even when we see something in front of it, we often don’t act until we smell it. Mom finds that quite weird but true! Katie has good eyes, but her hearing is almost gone. The vet said she might benefit from readers if she reads a lot, but otherwise her eyes are perfect which is nice. She doesn’t read much, so no readers for her!
Luckily Cricket doesn’t read much either, so we won’t have to worry about that! Far more often I see Luke and Cricket with their noses in the air before they start reacting to anything. Luke definitely has some scent hound in him; he spends a lot of time running our fence line with his nose in the air!
easy rider says
thanks for a very important post. we noticed cataracts at one of the huskies as they became older. we tried to treat it with this pills what contained weed… sadly there was no difference visible… eggscept in our wallet :o(