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Can Dogs See in the Dark?

Dog Nutrition Dogs-Misc Stress and Anxiety
What kind of night vision do dogs really have? Dogs have many super abilities compared to humans, such as scent, dog-years, loyalty, and speed. Can dogs see in the dark or do they need a little night light to get around the house? These are common questions dog guardians often wonder about. Read on for the answer...

Can Dogs See in the Dark?

dogs see in the dark - vet organicsIt’s more accurate to say that dogs can see in low-light than in the dark. While humans do well in bright light, dogs make use of whatever light is available. So, in a sense, they have night vision, but it’s limited. They can’t actually see when it’s pitch black outside. Dog eyes are actually anatomically different from ours.They have larger pupils, which allows more light in to make out shapes in the dark. They have rods with wide retinas and a tissue structure called, tapetum lucidum behind their retinas. While “tapetum lucidum” sounds a bit like a Harry Potter spell, this tissue is the fascinating, spellbinding reason our dog's eyes will sometimes appear to glow in very dim surroundings. They use this mirror-like tissue structure twice - once to process light as it comes into their eyes, and then to reflect or scatter any excess light back. When the tapetum lucidum reflects unnecessary light, we see that cool glowy look animals sometimes get in their eyes at night or in dark rooms. In fact, the reflection of light by this tissue has a name. It’s a phenomenon called fluorescence that amplifies light by 130 times. This also explains why dogs are a little more sensitive to light than humans. The process also shifts the wavelength of light, which is why glowy eyes are different colors like green, orange, silver, and more. eco-eats - vet organics- can dogs see in the dark Keeping eyes healthy means keeping our pups on a healthful diet. EcoEats is the closest we can get to a whole food diet, it’s inexpensive, and it’s built for doggy taste buds. Give it a try, and you’ll understand just how amazing non-commercial dog food can be. No fillers. Just nutritious goodness. Dogs also one-up us in eye anatomy when it comes to fovea. This is a small indentation in the retina that allows us to see detail. Dogs don’t have them, which is a bummer if our dog wants to count their hairs or spots, but it’s great because it makes them better at tracking motion. That’s why they can see squirrels darting around in treetops and from across the park. No fovea means lots of focus on motion and movement. While many humans have 20/20 vision, dogs have 20/75 vision. That means there are more details we can pick out at 75 feet that a dog wouldn’t clearly see at 20 feet away. We see the same item in detail and Fido sees it in a softer, blurrier focus. Aside from anatomy, dogs also have better night vision than us because they have an increased field of vision. We can only see about 190 degrees, but most dogs breeds have a 250-degree field of vision. Dogs are considered nocturnal hunters, so even though this isn’t true anymore, the prevailing wisdom is that the ability to see in low light is left over from their wild genes when packs would hunt at dusk and dawn.

Do Dogs Need a Nightlight?

dogs see in the dark - vet organicsThe short answer is, yes. Dogs see in the dark, but because they don’t see in pitch dark, a night light is helpful. It will keep the house dim, so we don’t burn electricity at night or when we aren’t home, but it will give them the light they need to comfortably move and to entertain themselves. The more common question is, are dogs afraid of the dark? We often think it’s our kids who get exposed to the boogeyman in horror films and those images and scenarios stay with them, but it turns out, dogs have a boogey-dog. Of course, like humans, not all dogs are afraid of the dark. And their emotional relationship with the dark can vary from general discomfort to downright terror, just like humans. To determine whether our pup is afraid of the dark, look for any of these symptoms:
  • Upset or anxiety at being left alone in the dark
  • Bad behavior, such as getting into the trash or tearing things up
  • Seeming abnormally upset when we come home after dark
  • Bathroom accidents in the house
  • Broken claws or digging while inside
  • Hiding while at home in the dark
  • Barking while left home alone (ask the neighbors or check security cameras for this one)
Dogs see in the dark, but sometimes fear of the dark can extend to daytime separation anxiety if it is severe or is left without a solution for too long. Try nightlights on a timer, or even better, nightlights that sense when the lights are out and automatically turn on. How does your dog do in the dark? Share your stories with us on Facebook or on Instagram using #vetorganics.

Michelle Lievense

Michelle is a writer and ghostwriter, specializing in wellness, sustainability, and global social change. She is particularly fond of serving ethical organizations who contribute to a better life for people and animals through humane and environmentally responsible missions. At Vet Organics, Michelle uses her time as a vet tech, her academic studies in animal science and behavior, and nearly a decade working on a ranch teaching animal husbandry to write on a variety of cat and canine health topics. When she isn't writing, Michelle can be found hiking in the mountains of Colorado with her dogs or snuggled up with a good book and her cats.

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*Results may vary based on factors such as age, size and physical condition of your pet.