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Understanding How Dogs and Cats See: Debunking Myths | Vision Insights

Dogs and cats have particular and different vision compared to humans.

The first thing to know is that they are blind as soon as they are born, and it entirely depends on their mother; slowly, they begin to open their eyes and see, but not before three weeks of life.

They see only things in motion in black and white. They see in the dark. No, they don’t see well at all—what a mess! Understanding the intricacies of Dog and Cat Vision unveils a fascinating realm of sensory perception vastly different from our own. While we often project our human visual experiences onto our furry companions, the reality of how they perceive the world is a complex interplay of biology, physiology, and evolutionary adaptations. This article delves into the depths of canine and feline sight, dispelling common myths and shedding light on how they navigate their environments.

Blind at birth

Let’s start at the beginning, i.e., from the very first days of life. Unlike human puppies, who are born already sighted but who, during the first months of life, tend to perceive more contrasts (black/white, edge/ contour/angle…} than the details of objects in their field of vision, canine and feline puppies are utterly blind at birth.

The age of first eye-opening occurs at about 7 days for kittens and 15 days for puppies.

The age of the first opening of the eyes is around seven days for kittens and 15 days for puppies, and both will not acquire full possession of their visual faculties until about three months. To compensate for the visual deficit in the first weeks of life, they naturally rely on their sense of smell, which remains their predominant sense.

Vast Visual Field

Dogs, and especially cats, see much better than people in low-light conditions. We can see with six times less light than they do.

The visual field of a human being is approximately 90 degrees temporally, 70 degrees inferiorly and 60 degrees superiorly. A dog’s field of vision is 240 degrees; this amplitude is due to binocular vision. The lateral position of the eyes on the dog’s skull (except for brachycephalic breeds, which have their eyes positioned frontally and thus have a vision more similar to ours) gives broad peripheral vision.

This, however, is not functional for recognising an object at close range. Also, bringing unfamiliar objects too close to the dog’s snout is not recommended; we could frighten him and cause him to react unexpectedly.

The field of vision of felines is similar to that of dogs. What differentiates them is the mice’s ability to use low-light conditions better. Thanks to their ability to orient themselves, they know how to move around in the environment even with very little residual light, whereas dogs still need a minimal illumination source to put their night vision into operation. Both tend to see moving objects sooner than stationary ones, especially at a distance of a few metres.

Black and White or Colour?

What about the colour spectrum? Dogs and cats are not colour-blind, as was once believed, and they do not see in black and white, another fairly widespread theory.

While humans are susceptible to three primary colours, namely red, blue and green (trichromatic vision), dogs are sensitive to only two colours, blue and yellow, so they have dichromatic vision and cannot perceive red.

Unlike HUMAN PUPPIES, who are born already sighted but who, during their first months of life, tend to perceive more the contrasts than the details of objects in their field of vision, ‘Canine Puppies‘ and ‘Felines‘ are completely blind at birth.

Fido perceives red and its derivatives, such as orange, on a grey scale. According to some research, dogs’ vision alternates between grey, yellow, and blue in different combinations, processing their wavelengths. Cats also see colours in a very similar way. However, they do not possess a region of the retina called the ‘fovea‘, which enables them to perceive colours better through photoreceptors.

On the other hand, they have many ‘rods’ (photoreceptor elements) that help them grasp movement more quickly: another reason, this one, behind their innate predatory instinct (the tendency to chase prey and to move objects!). The cones are other photoreceptor cells in the retina that enable them to see specific colours depending on the light conditions (and consequently the wavelength of the light itself).

The Structure of the Cat and Dog Eye

The field of vision is all the space that is perceived when the eyes look straight ahead. Given their anterior position, the visual field of the eyes is 180°. In cats, it is usually slightly wider and can reach 200°. However, for dogs, it depends on the breed: on average, i.e. with a muzzle that is neither flat nor elongated, the field of vision is around 240°.

The two elements that make up the retina also have other functions: the rods favour twilight vision, and the cones, on the other hand, are for daylight vision.

The rods in the dog and cat are much more numerous than the cones, and therefore, both have perfect crepuscular vision. This characteristic is familiar to many mammals, not only tame ones; man is an atypical animal in this respect.

We have more cones than rods, and our vision is purely diurnal. This is undoubtedly a result of adaptation to almost constant light conditions, which shows how far we have deviated from our nature.

Four-legged animals can suffer from the same vision defects that afflict humans, such as myopia and hypermetropia!

Both dogs and cats are good night predators, and this is due to a layer of reflective cells on the retina. This tissue, called tapetum lucidum, is characteristic of nocturnal mammals, and we lack it. It is stimulated when the pupil dilates to pick up the smallest light particles in a dark environment. The tapetum lucidum is visible when our cat’s eyes twinkle in the dark.

Hands up, feline owners who, getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or take a sip of water, have been shocked to see a pair of fluorescent eyes staring back at them from the darkness, only to realise that that menacing gaze belonged to none other than their cuddly little kitty. Well, now you know that tapetum lucidum is responsible for your fright!

Other Curiosities

The dog can distinguish objects at a distance of 6 metres, compared to 25 metres for a human. This ability depends on the position and general condition of the cornea and lens.

Four-legged animals can suffer from the same eyesight defects afflict humans, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness. In contrast, brachycephalic breeds and those with very protruding eyeballs, such as Chihuahuas, are more prone to traumatic injuries or infection and irritation due to foreign bodies (dust, dirt) entering the eye.

This is due to the muzzle’s conformation, which exposes the eye’s surface more to accidents of this type.

Remedy for eye discomfort

The eyes of dogs and cats are fundamental; for this reason, it is necessary to maintain correct ocular hygiene by cleaning around the eye contour.

To avoid problems, it is always advisable to keep the dog’s eyes well cleaned with simple solutions of physiological saline, boric water or even the classic infusion of cold chamomile: these are all soothing and disinfecting substances,

In the case of irritating atmospheric conditions (some examples: altitude, strong wind, air conditioning), it may also be opportune to apply artificial tears to improve hydration regularly. Of course, one must not hesitate to contact the veterinary doctor for any problem!

A dog’s field of vision is 240 GRADES; this amplitude is due to binocular vision. The cat’s field of vision is similar, but unlike Fido, it can better use low-light conditions.

Finally, let us remember that sight is an essential sense. Still, it is not the predominant one, especially for a dog: the sense of smell remains, in fact, the dog’s primary access key to the world, and his nose is the primary tool with which he knows, explores, and processes.

When we see him staring into space, perhaps barking at something we cannot see, he is not seeing a ghost or sensing who knows what negative energy is but entirely has perceived an olfactory trace that we cannot smell.

Therefore, offering your Fido time and opportunities to make the most of his prodigious sense of smell, playing, learning, and analysing is his way of seeing the world, and depriving him of all this constitutes actual mistreatment. Ultimately, it takes a wipe, and the snout is clean again!

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  • Q&A:

    Are dogs and cats color-blind?

    No, dogs and cats are not colour-blind. While humans perceive a full spectrum of colours, dogs primarily see blue and yellow. At the same time, cats have similar colour perceptions but lack a specific region in the retina for optimal colour vision.

    Why do dogs and cats have better night vision?

    Dogs and cats have better night vision due to a layer of reflective cells called tapetum lucidum in their retinas, which enhances their ability to see in low-light conditions.

    What is the difference between the visual fields of dogs and cats compared to humans?

    Dogs and cats have broader peripheral vision than humans. Due to their lateral eye placement, dogs have a visual field of approximately 240 degrees. Cats share a similar vision field but excel in low-light conditions.

    How can I keep my pet’s eyes healthy?

    Regularly cleaning your pet’s eyes with physiological saline or boric water can help maintain eye health. Additionally, providing artificial tears in irritating atmospheric conditions and seeking veterinary advice for eye problems is essential for ensuring your pet’s vision remains in optimal condition.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Dogs and cats are not colour-blind but have different colour perceptions than humans.
    • Their night vision is superior due to the presence of tapetum lucidum.
    • Dogs and cats have broader peripheral vision, enhancing their ability to detect movement.
    • Regular eye care, including cleaning and veterinary check-ups, is crucial for maintaining optimal eye health in pets.

    Comparison Table:

    AspectDogsCatsHumans
    Colour PerceptionPrimarily, see blue and yellowSimilar to dogs but lack foveaTrichromatic vision (red, blue, green)
    Night VisionEnhanced due to tapetum lucidumEnhanced due to tapetum lucidumLess effective in low-light conditions
    Visual FieldApproximately 240 degreesSimilar to dogs but excel in low-lightApproximately 180 degrees
    Eye HealthProne to injuries, regular cleaning is neededProne to injuries, regular cleaning neededLess prone to injuries, regular check-ups

    Conclusions:

    In conclusion, delving into the realm of Dog and Cat Vision offers profound insights into the lives of our beloved pets. From their unique visual fields to their nuanced colour perception, understanding their perspective enhances our bond and enriches their quality of life. By appreciating the significance of their olfactory prowess alongside their visual insight, we embark on a journey of empathy and companionship, ensuring their well-being and happiness for years to come.

    Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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    The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

    Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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    Written by Frenchie Breed

    The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

    Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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