Are Dogs Color Blind?

Can they see color at all? 🌈

If you've ever caught a rainbow or watched a sunset with your pup, you might have wondered if she can see all the amazing colors that you can.

While dogs definitely can’t see a rainbow in the same way most humans can, they aren’t living in a black and white movie either.

The Dodo reached out to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, and Dr. Jonathan Roberts, a veterinarian at Pet Keen, to find out more about how dogs see color.

Do dogs see color?

While it’s been commonly said that dogs can only see in black and white, that actually isn’t the case.

In fact, dogs perceive colors in the same way that people with red-green color blindness do.

Human vision vs. dog vision

There are some similarities and differences between how dog eyes and human eyes function.

“All mammal eyes [including dogs’ and humans’] have photoreceptors in their retinas called rods and cones,” Dr. Roberts told The Dodo. “Rods are responsible for low light vision and do not process color, while cones are active during higher light levels and are capable of color vision.”

However, when it comes to how dogs see color, dogs have dichromatic vision, while humans have trichromatic vision. Here’s what you need to know about the differences between the two:

Trichromatic vision

Trichromatic vision is the ability for humans and other animals to distinguish between the three primary colors and all the various combinations of them.

Those with trichromatic vision have three working photoreceptors in their eyes.

Dichromatic vision

Dichromatic vision is a defect in these photoreceptors in which one of the three cones in humans is malfunctioning or, for some animals, one is missing entirely.

Those with dichromatic vision can only tell the difference between blues and greens but not reds.

So when it comes to your dog, she falls into the second category, while most humans fall into the first.

“Healthy humans have trichromatic vision,” Dr. Roberts said. “This means they can see three primary colors and all mixtures of these colors. Dogs, however, have dichromatic vision, which means they are only able to see mixtures of two primary colors.”

So how dogs see color is most comparable to red-green color blindness in humans.

What colors do dogs see?

“The two hues dogs can see are blue-violet and green-yellow,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “Dogs perceive the orange-red range as yellow.”

Can dogs see blue and yellow?

Yes, dogs can distinguish between blue and yellow.

“Dogs are missing one of the three wavelength-sensitive cones and therefore can only see the colors blue and yellow and mixtures of these colors,” Dr. Roberts said.

So if you’re asking your pup to choose between that blue ball or the yellow one, she totally understands what you’re talking about.

Try this blue KONG Ball from Chewy for $7.99

Try this yellow KONG Tennis Ball from Chewy for $5.06

Can dogs see red and green?

No, dogs can’t see red or green.

“Since dogs are missing the specific cones needed to differentiate between the colors red and green, dogs perceive these colors and mixtures of these colors as brown,” Dr. Roberts said.

This means that if you’re tossing a bright red ball to your pup when playing fetch, she’ll likely be running after a dull brown ball from her perspective.

So while dogs can see more color than most people are told, dogs still have a hard time seeing the full range of colors. But even a little bit of color is better than everything being black and white, right?

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