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Ask the Vet: Is my dog color-blind?

A listener wanted to know how dogs see. Dr. Megan Seekin joined the show to discuss the way our pets' eyes work? (AP Photo/file)

This week, listener Gina in North Bend submitted an Ask the Vet question: Is my dog color-blind or is that a myth? Either way, how do researchers know what an animal sees?

Veterinarian guest, Dr. Megan Seekin, says this is a hard one to answer 100 percent, but she says research shows that cats and dogs do see color, but they see color differently than we do.

“People have cones on the retina, on the back of their eye, and that is what allows us to see the different colors and all the variations in between. People generally have three cones that allow us to see red, green, and blue.

“Dogs and cats, on the other hand, have different or fewer numbers of cones. Dogs have two cones and mostly see blues and yellows. Cats will see a greater variation, but probably in less contrast.”

Another difference in human and animal sight is that dogs and cats can see better than humans at night.

“They can see better in lower light levels if they’re avoiding prey or going after prey,” says Seekin.

But based on the measurement scale to evaluate human vision, dogs and cats have a lot less clarity in vision than humans, she explains.

“We’ve often heard of eye sight measured in 20/20, 20/40, 20/60, with 20/20 being best. Dogs however see on average of 20/75 and cats see on average of 20/150.”

This means from a distance, things will not be as clear for an animal viewing something say 20 or 30 feet away.

To keep your animals seeing at their best, Dr. Seekin says there are things to watch for. She says look out for cloudiness on the eye, or goopiness. Also squinting could indicate a cut on the eye, which she says is considered an eye emergency. If you observe any of these conditions in your pet, she recommends consulting a veterinarian right away.

Ask the Vet is sponsored by Animal Medical Center of Seattle. You can submit a question and listen for the response on KIRO Radio’s It’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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