Are Maltese Dogs Color Blind? (Plus Other Senses Explained)

Dogs are known for their excellent sense of smell. Of course, our beloved Maltese have that too. But what about their eyesight? Can Maltese see all colors or are they color blind?

Maltese are color blind. But this is true for all dog breeds. This is because they only have two types of cone cells. Therefore, they can see mainly blue, violet, and yellow well. Researchers believe that red looks like yellow to them and they just can’t see green very well.

The fact that Maltese is color blind does not mean that they can only see black and white. This was once thought to be the case but has since been disproved. These friendly dogs can definitely see colors, but not as well and not as many as humans.

Let’s take a look at what color blindness actually means. Then we explain what Maltese can see and what they can’t, and what advantage they still have in seeing compared to us humans.

We will also take a look at the other sensory organs of Maltese and explain which ones work particularly well for them.

What Is Color Blindness?

Color blindness can be a distressing concept. You imagine how terrible it would be to perceive the world without colors.

There are however different forms of color blindness, and not all of them mean that you cannot see colors at all. This total color blindness, also called achromatopsia, is, fortunately, a rare condition.

Color blindness, which occurs in dogs and many other animals, is partial color blindness. And it is not a disease, but the natural functioning of their eyes.

Color blindness, even in the context of animals, is actually often considered in relation to color vision in humans. And since dogs can’t see as many colors as we humans can because of the way their eyes work, they are considered color blind.

While color blindness in humans is often caused by inherited eye problems, in dogs it is simply that they have one fewer type of cone cell than humans.

Cone cells are what make sure we can see colors. Humans have three different types of cone cells in their eyes. One type each is responsible for seeing red, green, and blue.

Dogs have only two types of cone cells. As a result, they cannot see the full spectrum of colors that we humans can see.

They are therefore color blind from our human point of view, but it is not a malformation in them, but a natural development of their sensory organs.

What Colors Can A Maltese See?

For a long time, scientists thought that dogs could not see colors at all. The consensus was that dogs can only see black and white.

In the meantime, however, research has progressed further. Today we know for sure that dogs can also see colors in a limited way. But they cannot see every color equally well.

In 1989, researchers from the University of Cambridge published their research results, in which they showed that dogs can see colors. However differently than we humans.

They found out that dogs can see especially yellow, violet, and blue very well. They also found that red looks like yellow to dogs and green do not look colorful to dogs.

The reason for this is the aforementioned cone cells in the dog’s eye. Dogs only have cone cells for yellow and blue color. This obviously limits the colors they can perceive and distinguish.

What is true for dogs, in general, is also true for Maltese. They can perceive mainly colors in the blue, violet, and yellow ranges. Red probably looks about the same to them as yellow. And they do not perceive green as colorful.

Can Maltese See Well?

But that’s not the end of the bad news about Maltese eyes. Maltese are not only color blind, they also have other visual limitations compared to humans.

Besides color blindness, it is also the case that Maltese are nearsighted. Their visual acuity is not very good at long distances. And they can’t see close objects in focus very quickly either.

Maltese are also known to get poorer eyesight as they age. This can even cause them to become a little aggressive at an older age.

But Maltese score high in twilight vision and panoramic vision. Their field of vision is up to 240 degrees wide. For comparison, the field of vision in humans is only about 180 degrees.

Maltese have good twilight and darkness vision because they have many more rod cells than humans. Rod cells are responsible for perceiving brightness.

With these sensitive sensory cells, Maltese can pick up much more of the dim light at dusk or dawn than we can.

So nature has provided a little compensatory justice here. And has also given the dogs some advantages in other sensory organs. But more about that in the next chapter.

What About The Other Senses In Maltese?

As we have seen, vision is not the Maltese’s greatest strength. Or rather, that of dogs in general.

But what about the other senses? Do Maltese have advantages over humans in this respect?

Maltese Sense Of Smell

Maltese have an incredibly good sense of smell. While humans can only distinguish about 10,000 smells, dogs have an estimated 1 million different smells!

This is mainly because dogs have about 220 million olfactory cells in their noses. Humans, on the other hand, have only about 22 million olfactory cells.

However, they not only have more olfactory cells but also more sensitive ones. Their olfactory cells work much better than ours.

Their breathing technique also ensures that dogs can smell much better. With their short, intermittent breaths, they ensure that they take in more air and thus more odors.

But most importantly, this breathing technique helps them keep their olfactory cells from tiring too fast. This may sound surprising since you might think that with more breathing comes more work for the olfactory cells. But it’s actually a reduced workload for them.

So, all in all, you can say that Maltese can smell much better than we humans can.

Maltese Sense Of Hearing

And the Maltese are also superior to us when it comes to hearing. Dogs can generally hear much better than humans.

This already starts with the frequency range. While the human frequency range is from 16 to 20,000 Hz, dogs have an audible frequency range from 15 to over 50,000 Hz.

Dogs can perceive especially high-pitched sounds much better. For this reason, there are also dog whistles. Dogs can hear the frequency of a dog whistle well. For humans, these whistles are often not noticeable.

However, dogs do not hear much louder than we do. In the perception of volume and also in the structure of hearing, humans and dogs are very similar.

However, dogs have the ability to block out loud and unimportant sounds. They can hear selectively, so to speak.

They simply ignore the vacuum cleaner or the television because they are not important. But if you quietly open the refrigerator, in which there are treats, your Maltese will definitely hear that.

Another advantage of dogs is that they can move their ears like small radar dishes. This allows them to direct their hearing to the source of the noise and thus hear better what is happening there.

Maltese Sense Of Taste

The sense of taste does not play such a big role for dogs.

However, your tongue has two essential additional functions that are very important for your Maltese: With its incredible mobility, it serves to absorb liquids.

And they regulate their temperature by panting. In this process, evaporated water is released via the tongue.

But don’t get me wrong: dogs naturally have a sense of taste. They will not eat inedible dog food.

But the sense of smell is more responsible for that. If the food doesn’t smell good, the sense of taste doesn’t even come into play.

Maltese Sense Of Touch

Dogs have whiskers that they use for their sense of touch. But they are not quite as important for dogs as they are for cats, for example.

The whiskers are connected to sensitive nerve cells in the skin. These nerve cells register every movement that they perceive on the whiskers.

For dogs, however, the sense of touch is not so important. They rely far more on their strong senses of smell and hearing. The sense of touch is simply a nice little add-on for them.

Final Thoughts

Maltese are indeed color blind. At least compared to color vision in humans.

Maltese cannot perceive red and green tones very well. On the other hand, they see yellow, blue and violet tones very well.

Besides that, the Maltese are also nearsighted. They cannot see well at a distance, nor can they quickly see objects in focus at short distances. However, to compensate for this, they have a wide field of vision and can see well at dusk.

The real strength, as far as their senses are concerned, is the sense of smell and hearing in Maltese. With these two senses, they really shine. These senses work much better than in humans.

So Maltese have a different set of preferred senses than humans. They manage their senses very well, though. Actually, they have exactly the senses they need.