A Dog’s Perspective

Of the five senses, sight is arguably one of the most important.  Seeing helps us observe and process our surroundings and our vision continually allows us to enjoy the world around us and to help us avoid hazards.

Dog’s sight is similar to that of a human, with a few key differences.  The human eye can process many different colors and shades of those colors.  Even breeds of dogs that have the best vision have a much more limited range of colors they can see.  Dogs’ eyes are also much better at noticing movement than they are at recognizing detail.  Being able to notice movement better than us allows them better vision at night, but they are less likely to notice subtle details.

Though their vision may be poorer, an advantage canines have is their heightened other senses.  Dogs have an excellent sense of smell and finely tuned hearing.  As mentioned above, they are also great at noticing movement.  Though our perception of detail may be better, dogs are, on the whole, better at sensing their surroundings than humans.  These heightened senses made early dogs good hunters as well as great companions to early humans who would need a dog’s keen observance to help keep them out of danger’s way.

A dog’s eyes also resemble a human’s eyes.  Dog’s have a range of eye colors they may have, though they are usually a shade of brown.  One big difference between our eyes and a dog’s eyes are their nictitating membrane, or third eyelid. Though you can’t often see this membrane, eye irritation and some diseases can make it more noticeable.  This membrane sits in the inside corner of the canine eye and helps to keep dirt out and to keep the eyeball lubricated.

Dog’s even share a lot of the same eye diseases that humans can be affected by.  Just like you might pull out your Visine to take care of mild eye irritation, dogs can experience similar irritation to their eyes.  The same irritants that bother our eyes also bother our dogs: dust, chemical pollution and smoke are the most often culprit for eye irritation.

If your dog’s eyes are bothering them they will likely be inflamed, red and teary.  You may also see your animal scratching at their eyes or rubbing at them.  If only one of their eyes is bothering them, it often means a foreign object or maybe an injury is the problem.

A common breed-specific problem for some dogs is blocked tear ducts.  Shih Tzu’s and Poodles often have this problem and have darkened, damp hair matted around the corners of their eyes because of this.  If your dog has water eyes, it is recommended to get a veterinarian to check them out and determine which cause is the problem.

Sometimes elderly humans get cataracts and this is also often the case with older dogs.  A long time pet owner can easily recognize the lightened haze that forms over a dog’s eye when they are older and affected by cataracts.  The haze is your dog’s eye lens becoming opaque and consequently, your dog’s vision becoming impaired.

Something that might appear similar to a cataract in your dog’s eye but is a different condition altogether is Lenticular Sclerosis.  This condition is similar but the center is the only part of the dog’s eye that is affected.  Lenticular Sclerosis also often shows in elderly dogs.

Though it may sound sad to hear that older dogs are often affected by vision impairment, vision loss does not hurt a dog’s senses the same way it affects a human.  Remember, dogs have far better noses and hearing abilities than we do.

Blind dogs can still live out their lives happily and it’s a shame that humans lack similar sensory abilities to our furry companions.

Mark Mansfield

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