color blindness in animals

Italian scientists have created the first measurable test designed to assess color vision in animals. Using a modified version of the Ishihara’s Test – commonly used for the diagnosis of human color blindness – the researchers proved the hypothesis that dogs struggle to distinguish red from green.

The Ishihara’s Test uses images of numbers disguised in a circle of red and green dots. People who are red-green colorblind cannot see the numbers. The new test for dogs used images of cats instead of numbers (see image) to engage the test subjects – one Irish setter and five mixed-breed dogs aged between two and 13 years.

According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Marcello Siniscalchi, the findings have direct implications for trainers and pet parents who want to improve their dog’s attention skills. “If at the park you want to get your dog to catch a flying Frisbee or to bring back a ball falling on green grass it would be better to use blue instead of red toys,” he says. Dr. Siniscalchi also advises avoiding red clothing or shoes if working with your dog on grass, because he’ll struggle to see your movements.

Image courtesy of The Department of Veterinary Medicine – University of Bari, Italy.