June 15, 2009 "Ask Seth"

Do dogs really see in black and white?


Dear Seth,

Do dogs really see in black and white?

Derek, West Virginia


This is a great question that is not easily explained but I will try. Dogs do see color, but not with the acuity that humans have. Dogs are dichromatic, which means they only see two primary colors (yellow and blue). Humans are trichromatic, so they can see greens, reds, and blues. Dogs also have far less of a specific cell, called cones, in their retinas. Cones are responsible for seeing a range of colors. As humans, we have close to ten times the amount of cones than dogs. As a result, dogs see colors as more faded or pale than we do. Dogs do have a much larger concentration of rod cells, which are responsible for seeing black and white. So while dogs see less color than we do, rods are much more sensitive in low light conditions, which gives dogs much better night vision than humans!

Seth Mayersohn, CVT


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