Why Do Dogs Eyes Glow?


Hi there, wondering about your dogs glowing eyes? I’m Rhi the Shiba Inu. I will tell you all about why dogs eyes glow.

You’ve probably been walking the house at night, or taken your pup for an evening stroll and got a bit caught out when your dog looked up at you, and you were met with two happy glowing orbs.

Don’t worry, we aren’t possessed.

Our eyes just react differently to light exposure. They have something called ‘tapetum lucidum’ which is basically a light reflective surface.

It allows for the rods and cones in our eyes to pick up limited amounts of light, even at night and helps us see better at night. So, yes, we can see that plug you are about to step on, or that twig that is about to trip you up.

The simple explanation is that while we can’t see some things that you can, we can see better at night and this makes our eyes glow.

It’s all due to us being descended from wolves and our biology being attuned to nighttime hunting. As fun as that would be, we would much rather cuddle up with you though.

Do all dog eyes glow in the dark?

Most dogs eyes will glow in the dark, or when you take a photo of them with a flash, we aren’t a fan of that flash by the way, it can be quite sudden.

However, not all dogs eyes will glow. When you see your dogs eyes glowing the tapetum I mentioned earlier will look yellow, green, blue, orange, or other colors. This accounts for the brightness of the dogs eyes reflection.

Some dogs can have a very small tapeta, or even none at all, and this will show with very little glow.

Some dogs who have orange or brown coats, or those who have pretty blue eyes, will have less pigment in the back of their eyes this will make their glow a bright red. This will make their eyes look less like a glow.

The existence of this feature in us dogs is an adaptation from us being nocturnal hunters. This means that we get a kind of double exposure in our vision.

Can a dog see in the dark?

We know that you humans are awful at seeing in the dark, you trip over things, walk into objects that you know are there, and you can’t see your paws in front of your face. We feel sorry for you, you wouldn’t make good nocturnal hunters at all.

This is because you lack what we have, you have no tapetum lucidum and so when the daylight is gone, you’re a bit hopeless without those shiny lights you keep in the home.

We dogs, have a tapetum lucidum, and so we don’t need the help of lights all the time. While you are bumping into objects on the way to mark your territory (why you always do that in the same place makes no sense to me), we can see our paws in front of our noses.

Sometimes we might follow you to mark your territory in the night, we are worried you will hurt yourself when you bump into something.

My owner has nearly fallen over me a few times when I have gone to check she’s not walking into things. Only for her to nearly fall over me, she’s so clumsy sometimes, but a dog can’t help but love her.

What causes animal eyes to glow?

This Shiba Inu is about to get all up in the science of this.

Us dogs, as well as cats (Ruff!), and many other animals have eyes that glow in the dark, which is pretty cool right?

Well, the reason so many animals with glowing eyes are ones you see at night, or ones that are most active at night, or like us dogs, are descended from night-time hunters.

Because we hunt, or are most active at night, those of us with glowing eyes are also the ones that see best at night.

It is because of that reflective surface under our retinas that I told you about. This surface is both what makes our eyes glow and what helps us see at night.

When light enters our eyes, it is meant to hit a photoreceptor that transmits the information to our brains. But sometimes the light doesn’t hit the photoreceptor and then that reflective surface (tapetum lucidum) acts like a mirror, and bounces the light back for a second chance.

Loads of animals have this feature, include us dogs, cats have it, cows, horses, even deer. You humans lack this, and that is why you are so terrible in the dark. Other primates don’t have this either nor so squirrels (Grrr), or pigs.

How do dogs see people?

With our extra awesome night-time vision, we dogs can see a lot. But, we sacrifice our visual perception of color in order to get our night vision.

We are not great with color. Our wolf ancestors got rid of the need to see colors in order to see moving objects more by adapting to low light conditions.

For this reason, we do not see you as you see yourself, but we notice all of your movements, day or night. We also recognize the people we know, we recognize our owners faces much more than we do other people, or new faces.

We also recognize your eyes more than your other facial features, we like your eyes, you are so expressive with them, and you all have unique eyes, we like that.

Furthermore, we watch how you look at things and respond to things, so we pay attention to your eyes more than any other part of your face.

We also recognize you expressions too, we know when you are sad, or happy, or bored. You show emotions with your face, and we can understand that and relate to that.

Because we see less color but are more sensitive to movements we track your emotions better, just don’t think we will be able to tell red from pink.

Oh no, I have got to go. I hear my owner coming, she can’t catch me on here. Bye Humans and try not to bump into too many things at night!