What do dogs see?

You’re never alone when you have a dog. From the tiny but feisty Chihuahua to the giant Great Dane many owners know that dogs really are the best pet to have. And with those adoring eyes who could ever resist? But when they’re gazing up at you, have you ever wondered what they are really seeing?

If you’re a curious canine fan then read on to find out everything you need to know about your dog’s eyes and common problems to look out for.

Protecting your beloved pet’s beautiful eyes is just one of the reasons why responsible dog owners choose award-winning insurance for dogs from Purely Pets.

How are dogs’ eyes different from ours?

Dogs see very differently from us and the reason lies in the structures of those cute puppy dog eyes. In both humans and dogs, there are two types of photoreceptors in the retina called rods and cones.

Rods help both species see in dim light and give them night vision. They detect brightness and shades of grey. Whereas cones, on the other hand, are responsible for day vision and help distinguish between colours.

Because dogs have less cone receptors than us, they can only detect two colours (we aren’t sure which ones) while we can detect three (red, blue and green).

Their colour perception is often likened to that of a colour-blind human. However, because they have more rods, they can see much better than us at night.

Dogs’ night vision is also improved by the presence of a reflective layer called the tapetum lucidum that reflects light back to the retina.

This layer of tissue acts like a mirror and allows the retina to receive more than 50% of the available light. It’s why dogs’ eyes seem to shine in the dark!

In addition, because dogs have eyes which are placed on the sides of their head, they have a remarkable field of vision.

A dog’s visual field is far broader than ours, spanning roughly 240 degrees compared to our measly 180 degrees!

A puppy Weimaraner with brightly coloured eyes

How do dogs see the world?

The answer to the question above is probably not very well if we go by the structure of their eyes. Dogs are very near-sighted compared to humans, meaning they can’t focus as well on distant objects.

According to Psychology Today, a dog would have to be 20 feet away from an object to see it as well as a human standing 75 feet away. That said, certain breeds of dog such as Labradors have been bred for better eyesight and are closer to a human’s vision in this respect.

However, remember that vision is only one part of a dog’s sensory world – and certainly not the most important. Both their senses of smell and hearing are far in advance of a mere human!

In terms of hearing they can hear sounds at frequencies twice as high as those heard by their owners. But that’s nothing compared to their strength of smell.

Dogs have 220 million olfactory receptors while human beings have only 5 million. Your dog can tell far more about you from your smell than what you look like – you can never fool a dog’s sense of smell!

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Common canine eye problems

There are a whole host of causes of eye problems in dogs that you need to be aware of. While most react well to treatment, all need to be seen by a veterinary professional to make sure they don’t turn into something more serious.

Signs that your perfect pooch is having problems with their eyes include:

  • Redness in the eyes

  • Swollen skin around the eyes

  • Scratching at the eyes or pawing at the face

  • Lots of tears or pus coming from the eyes

  • Any cloudiness to the eye, or a 'glassy' look

Dog insurance policyholders with Purely Pets have access to a 24-hour Vet Helpline if they have any concerns and need to speak to a veterinary professional. So, if you notice something unusual about your dog’s eyes simply pick up the phone and call us.

A french bulldog with its front legs up on a ledge panting

Common causes of eye problems

So what can cause issues with your puppy's eyes?

  • Conjunctivitis – Similar to the condition in humans, this can be caused by a bacterial or viral inflammation or even an allergic reaction.

  • Tear stains – Excessive tear production due to irritation can cause a discharge to spill out of the eye and create reddish-brown streaks down the face.

  • Cherry eye – Dogs have a third typically hidden eyelid to provide extra protection to the eye. This can become swollen and red and is more likely to develop in certain breeds of dog such as Bulldogs and Pugs.

  • Corneal damage – Dogs are very active creatures and can easily cause damage to the cornea when out and about.

  • Dry eye – Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, this condition occurs when your dog’s eyes don’t produce enough tears.

  • Cataracts and lenticular sclerosis – While different in terms of seriousness, both of these conditions are characterised by a distinctive cloudy appearance or a loss in vision. It’s important for your vet to see your dog so they can determine whether your dog’s milky eyes are caused by lenticular sclerosis or cataracts.

  • Glaucoma – A serious condition that needs urgent treatment. Glaucoma is caused when fluid doesn’t drain correctly from the eyeball. This can cause pressure to build up and damage the eye. It can even lead to blindness.

How our award-winning dog insurance can help

Taking care of your dog’s eyes is only one small part of being a caring pet parent. Dog insurance can help protect against unexpected costs such as vet bills.

Policyholders find it much more manageable to pay a regular premium than to find a large lump sum in an emergency.

If your four-legged friend develops a medical condition, you’ll be relieved that insurance is there to help cover the costs.

The Purely Pets team are here to make this as simple and straightforward as can be. If you choose Purely Pets, you’ll benefit from:

  • Choose an excess from £60

  • Online claims

  • 15 levels of lifetime cover

  • Knowledgeable team ready to help

  • Lifetime cover up to £15,000

  • Online customer policy management portal

Get a quick quote from Purely Pets today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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  • 98% claims paid *
  • Claims paid directly to vets
  • 24/7 vet video consultations
  • Interest free monthly payments