Can A Dog See Infrared

Can A Dog See Infrared?

Last Updated: August 18, 2023
correct answerThe Short Answer is:

Dogs cannot see infrared, so the answer is No. Physically, they are unable to do this.

In this article you will know the answer to the query “Can A Dog See Infrared?“.

Do you remember a time when your dog acted strangely for no apparent reason? It might have been the infrared light.

Can A Dog See Infrared

Dogs can react to pressing the remote control if they are sensitive enough. Does this mean dogs can detect infrared light?

Well both yes and no. They cannot see it or at least that is what the science currently says but they can sense it. 

We’ll explore how dogs can perceive infrared light in this article and whether it poses any danger to them. Also we’ll explore animals that use infrared light to detect their prey and you would not like it since you’re the prey!

What is Infrared light?

Radiation in the form of infrared light or infrared radiation is a type of energy thats invisible to the human eye but feels warm to the human body. Almost all objects in the universe emit some level of IR radiation. Even ice emits infrared radiation. The sun is the most obvious source of infrared radiation. Objects that have a temperature even if it is zero degrees emit this type of energy.

The existence of infrared light was discovered by humans in the 19th century but we have only recently begun to grasp its significance. 

Animals have been exposed to infrared radiation for eons a fact that is truly astonishing. Although they may not know what it is or what it is called they sure know how to use it. Many species use IR to detect the heat source of a body in the dark when they cannot see it to navigate the world or to hunt for food.

Can a dogs see infrared light?

Dogs cannot see infrared so the answer is No. Physically they are unable to do this. What makes us certain of this?

We need to take a look at the science behind dog vision if we are to understand this. Studying the anatomy of a dogs eye has led scientists to conclude that our pets cannot see infrared. 

Dogs also have rods and cones in their retinas that perceive light just like humans. When there is plenty of light the cones are used to provide vision while the rods assist in seeing in low light. There are many more rods in a dogs eye than there are in ours which explains why they see better in low light than we do.

It is believed that dogs adapted to low light conditions which allowed them to see prey (or enemies) at dusk or in the early morning. They are however unable to see infrared light because their eyes do not have that capability. 

How do dogs sense infrared light?

The nose of a dog can detect infrared light. At the tips of their nose dogs have a bundle of nerve endings that can pick up thermal heat or infrared. As a result the nerve endings transmit signals to the brain which decodes the information to pinpoint the source of that thermal energy. 

Swedish and Hungarian scientists concluded in a recent study published in Scientific Reports that a dogs nose is basically an infrared sensor.

“Dogs can detect thermal radiation coming from warm bodies or weak thermal radiation and they can adjust their behavior accordingly” said Anna Balint lead author of the study.

Brain scans showed increased brain activity when dogs were exposed to objects that were warmer than their surroundings.

According to Ronald Kroger a sensory scientist at Lund University it is possible that other carnivorans possess a similar infrared sense which adds another chapter to the story of prey-predator relationships.

He added that the predator hunting strategies must be re-evaluated and that prey species’ biology needs to be revisited with body heat-sensing predators in mind.

Golden retrievers and border collies were used in the tests but the discovery applies to all dogs although some breeds may be more sensitive to infrared than others. More research will provide more details about this. 

Signs that your dog sees infrared light

Analyzing the behavior of a dog may help owners determine whether the animal sees infrared. An interested dog will react whenever he senses something interesting. Surely you know how your dog reacts when something makes him happy or when he finds something intriguing or frightening. He will be fascinated by infrared as it is most intriguing. As they do not understand where the heat is coming from some dogs may even react angrily.

Here are some signs that your dog is reacting to infrared light:

  • Sense of alertness / raised ears – when your dog detects a source of heat he will become alert as he must determine if it is a threat.
  • Sniffing – it will be funny to see your dog sniffing at nothing. Generally its a sign of curiosity thing. It might be food!
  • Whining – indicates that the dog wishes to move closer to or away from the source of heat. They find it frustrating regardless of the direction they move.
  • Cowering – this behavior indicates your dog is scared and is trying to make himself as small as possible  
  • Barking – thats a sign that your dog feels threatened by the mysterious energy hes experiencing.
  • Growing – if your dog is unable to escape a perceived threat it may start growling and showing signs of aggression.   
  • Tail wagging – a clear sign of success. Based on careful analysis your dog has concluded that the unseen energy he is sensing is not a threat. He might be able to make friends with it. 

Infrared does not affect all dogs. Its possible that they sense it but they’re probably not bothered by it. Its possible that they would not react every time they see IR. You would not be able to change the channel with your remote control if your pet started barking every time you switched.

Is infrared light safe for dogs?

Dogs are considered safe from infrared radiation. The “long end” of the visible spectrum is occupied by red light which has wavelengths between 630 and 700 nanometers. The difference is that you can see red light and dogs probably can too. As a comparison infrared light occupies a range of wavelengths between 800 and 1000 nanometers in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Is light therapy safe for dogs?

Treatments can be performed with both types of light red and infrared. 

Since dogs are so popular as pets and their owners are dedicated to keeping them healthy there have been many studies regarding the safety of infrared and red light medical equipment for dogs. 

In addition to treating common skin issues in dogs light therapy can be used for pain management.

Dogs suffering from the following conditions may benefit from light therapy:

  • Joint pain
  • Sore muscles
  • Infections
  • Inflammation
  • Ligament and tendon injuries
  • Strains and sprains
  • A chronic condition or an injury can cause pain

You should consult a veterinarian if your dog has a problem like this. You can use some IR devices at home and perhaps you could benefit from one too. 

What other animals see infrared?

Infrared light is visible only to dogs but many other species use it to locate prey. Research has found that cold-blooded animals such as snakes amphibians and insects use infrared to guide themselves.

Mosquitoes will probably be able to find you no matter how hard you try to keep them away because of this. In the past it was thought that those nasty creatures only used their smell to detect chemicals that indicated humans were nearby. Recent studies have shown that they also use infrared light to find their next meal. If they get close enough they may also be able to see you.

Detecting infrared light is also very easy for your goldfish. Even goldfish can see into the ultraviolet spectrum but that isnot much use in a glass bowl.

It is also very good at detecting infrared light although unlike dogs it does not actually see it but rather perceives it. Vipers of this type have “pit sensors” located on their jaws which can detect changes in the heat spectrum and send a message to the brain. 


Infrared light is not visible to your furry friend in the traditional manner. In dogs the tip of their noses contains nerve endings that detect heat. These dogs are very sensitive to heat. By observing his reactions you might be able to determine when a dog catches IR light. Dogs may find it irritating some may bark and others may appear completely indifferent.

Furthermore infrared light can be used for your dogs benefit since there are a variety of medical treatments that use IR that can help arthritic dogs or solve skin problems. 

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Amanda Dogs Trainer

Amanda (Author)

With over a decade of experience, Amanda is a distinguished dog trainer. Her expertise in canine behavior has transformed countless lives, fostering harmonious human-canine connections. Through compassionate and personalized approaches, she empowers owners to understand and connect with their furry companions, creating a legacy of joyful tails and transformed lives.

Osvaldo Maciel Dogs Trainer

Osvaldo Maciel (Content Reviewer)

Osvaldo Maciel, a stalwart in the field with 14 years of experience, is a revered dog trainer. His journey is defined by a profound understanding of canine behavior, shaping unbreakable human-canine bonds. Osvaldo guides owners to connect with their beloved pets, leaving an indelible mark of happiness and transformation. His legacy shines through the countless lives he has touched.

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