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Facts About Dog and Cat Vision

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Your dog can see a squirrel from across the park, and your cat never runs into anything in the dark. If you’ve ever wondered how cats see at night or how dogs can see the slightest movements, check out these facts about dog eyesight and cat vision.

How Dogs See Things

Probably the biggest question about dog eyesight is, “can dogs see color?” “Dog eyesight is different—and generally worse—than human’s. They see color, but the world is less colorful than what you or I might see,” notes Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. She explains that how dogs see color is similar to the experience of a person who has red and green color blindness.

“This means that instead of seeing a rainbow like we do, a dog sees the spectrum as dark blue, light blue, gray, yellow, darker yellow/brown and dark gray,” says Dr. Barrack. Dog eyesight is also less sensitive to changes in brightness, and dogs have a more difficult time distinguishing between subtle variations of gray shades.

“Dog eyesight also tends to be more nearsighted than humans’, meaning dogs have trouble seeing in the distance and less of an appreciation for detail because their eyes lack fovea,” says Dr. Barrack. The fovea is an area of tightly packed cones within the retina.

Humans, dogs and cats have two receptors in their eyes—rods, which are used for nighttime viewing and sudden movement, and cones, which are relied upon for daytime viewing and to process color information. “Humans see greater color because we have more cones. But dogs can see pretty well in the dark because their eyes have more rods,” says Dr. Barrack. A dog’s eyes, especially if they’re a hunting breed, are extra-drawn to motion.

Humans can see things dogs can’t, but dogs have an extra advantage—they can smell the environment in a way our noses never could. “Dogs use their keen sense of smell to see the world in scents, not just visuals,” says Dr. Barrack.

How Good Is Cat Vision?

Human eyesight is overall better than a cat’s, but cat vision at night is definitely better than ours!

You may have noticed that cats have an elliptical pupil (as opposed to round pupils). Because of this elliptical shape, a cat’s pupil opens and closes much faster than a human’s, allowing more light to enter the eye. Cats also have a special membrane, called a tapetum, in the back of their eyes. The tapetum allows light to reflect through the rods twice, further improving cat night vision. Dogs also have this membrane in their eye, but cats use it more efficiently.

But can cats see color? Although cat night vision is extremely effective, cats are also colorblind. Colors such as purple, blue, green and yellow are likely outside of their color range; they see these variations in color as shades of gray. Cats are slightly nearsighted, favoring their ability to identify the movement of prey within running distance.

Supplements for Healthy Cat Vision and Dog Vision

These supplements are specifically formulated to support your pet’s healthy vision:

Animal Necessity Ocu-GLO Vision Dog Supplement is a dog eyesight supplement that is formulated by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. This blend of 12 different antioxidants includes grapeseed extract, lutein and fatty acids to protect vital cells in the eye from cat and dog eye problems like oxidative damage.

Dr. Mercola Eye Support Dog & Cat Supplement contains lutein, astaxanthin, zeaxanthin and bilberry extract plus vitamins C and E to help maintain dog and cat vision. These compounds provide powerful antioxidant support to keep eyes healthy and are extracted from natural sources like marigold flowers, green algae and bilberry fruits, with nothing synthetic. This supplement has a natural liver flavor, so you can give it on its own or mix it with your pet’s food.

PrevNext Optixcare L-Lysine Cat Chews provide your cat with l-lysine, a natural amino acid known to help support cat vision health. The cube-shaped treats are safe for adult cats and kittens alike, and are made with chicken to please kitties’ discerning palates.

PrevNext Nutramax Welactin Canine Omega-3 Liquid Dog Supplement is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids derived from cold water fish to help support dog vision health as well as healthy skin and coat, kidney health and brain health. With a flip-top lid, it’s easy to pour over your dog’s food.



Caitlin Boyle is a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her hobbies including trail running and planning fantasy vacations. She has two dogs, Maggie and James, and a cat that believes he’s a dog, Ferguson.