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When Do Puppies Open Their Eyes

  • 9 min read

The following information is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not constitute pet medical advice.
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There is hardly any other pleasure that matches touching the soft pink paw beans of a newborn puppy.

If you have been fortunate enough to be a part of a puppy’s developmental phases, you will know what goes on! This stage is a lot more than just cuteness for them. 

Development milestones for puppies differ from those of human babies significantly. While they are unable to walk just like our infants, their eyes remain at an underdeveloped stage as compared to human babies. Puppies have their eyes and ears closed in the first few weeks of their lives. At this time they require special care and attention from the owner/breeders/caregivers to ensure that they are growing at a healthy pace. 

When do puppies open their eyes?

There is no hard and fast rule or timeline for puppies to achieve their developmental milestones. But usually, you may notice that your little ball of fur is slowly starting to open its eyes anywhere in between 10 to 14 days from… 

…Its birth.

Taking care of such tiny puppies involves a rigorous schedule of feeding (mostly monitoring), cleaning, and medicating in a loop. This schedule can have about 6 to 8 repetitions per day. With so much to do with and around the puppies, you are sure to observe any physical change when it happens.

It must be remembered that the process of the eye-opening does not happen over a day. It is a slowly occurring phenomenon and can take several days. When the eye first starts to open, it reveals a greyish blue hazy mass. It doesn’t look distinctly like an adult dog’s eyes. But there is nothing to worry about in it. In most cases, the newborns usually start with one eye-opening which is followed by the other. You should be very careful at this stage and not try to force it open as it may cause permanent damage to your puppy’s vision. 

Why are puppies born with closed eyes?

Every animal has a different pace of development. While most reptiles hatch fully developed, there are marsupials (kangaroos, platypus, etc) that go through months of development while staying in their mother’s pouch. Dogs on the other hand have a medium pace when it comes to development at birth. They remain dependent on their mothers for the first few weeks of their lives before becoming strong enough to fend for themselves. 

One of the most important developments that happen for dogs outside their mother’s womb is that of their eyes. As they are underdeveloped they remain closed for quite some time. This helps to keep the developing eyes protected from various outside factors that may cause harm or even damage their vision.

A few of the common elements that are kept at bay by keeping the eyes closed are dust, dirt, infections, potential scratches caused by accidents, etc. 

Other physical developments at this stage

While the eyes are still developing, the puppies are usually not up and about on their feet yet.

Instead, they should be able to crawl on their bellies for short distances. You need to take extra care at this stage as the compromised/absent vision of these little ones could lead to accidents. As their eyes develop further, they slowly gain strength on their feet and start hopping, walking, and later running at ease.

The development of their eye is usually followed by the development of their ear. Till the age of about 14 days, their ear canals are shut. This then slowly opens over the following days as well. 

Another change that happens to the puppies along with the development of their eyes is the ability to urinate and defecate. Newborns are unable to urinate or defecate on their own. During this stage, the mother usually licks their genitals and stimulates them to help develop an urge to urinate and defecate.

Sometimes the mother gets too tired after childbirth or in unfortunate circumstances passes away. In such cases, the caregiver needs to do this artificially using a damp cloth or cotton balls. You should also watch out for the mother licking the puppies too much. This could lead to additional health problems like rashes or even in some cases injury to the puppy’s skin. 

What do newborn puppies see?

Puppies do not have a clear vision right after their eyes open. It takes them nearly 8 weeks to start seeing properly. Right after their eyes begin to open, they are unable to focus very well. This makes their eyesight extremely blurry at this stage. As the eyes at this time are not fully developed, they tend to be sensitive to bright light. It is advisable to keep the puppies during the first few weeks of their life in dimly lit places and avoid exposure to direct sunlight.

In the first few days after a puppy’s eyes open, it can only make out light and shadow. It takes them some more time to start identifying objects. But once the eyes start to open, you should get ready to get even busier around them.

With their eyes, ears and feet developed and strong they tend to become inquisitive explorers and often set off for adventures unannounced. 

Be on the lookout for eye infections

Puppies are at a high risk of eye infections during the early days of their lives. These infections can also at times develop before the eyes open. If you observe any changes in their eyes such as swelling or excessive discharge, then you must report to your vet immediately. 

Sometimes, puppies can hurt themselves with their tiny nails. At this stage of their lives, they have not yet mastered the coordination and movement of their limbs. This could lead to accidental scratches on the eyes. These scratches can further invite infections that can damage the pup’s vision. It is important to remember that any such infection must be prevented by keeping the surroundings clean, avoiding pointy objects around the puppies, and monitoring their movement from time to time. In the incidence of any infection, you must get it treated immediately as neglecting it could also lead to serious problems like permanent loss of vision. 

You can spot infections by looking out for discharge, swelling, or redness around your puppy’s eyes.

Common causes of eye infections

We hate to see our cute balls of fur go through any discomfort or illness. For this, it is important to know and identify the most common culprits that bring on such conditions. It has been seen that eye infections and other conditions in puppies are usually brought on by bacterial, viral, and immune system-related causes.

Apart from these, accidents, trauma, and distress caused to the eye is also another cause for such infections. 

With these in mind, you have to make sure to keep your pups in a clean and safe environment during this important phase of their lives.

When is it time to go to the vet?

The first few weeks of a puppy’s life require some extra care and attention. You must take note of the progression of the developmental milestones and report to your vet immediately if you think it is not going well. 

If your puppy does not open its eyes by the 20th day of its birth, you must visit your vet to avoid major complications. But do not try to open them yourself as it may damage their eyes severely. 

The other signs that you need to look out for while taking care of the puppies are swellings, discharge, redness and build-up around the eyes to name a few.

These could be indications of several underlying conditions. If you notice any of the above indications then head to your vet immediately. 

Interesting trivia!

  1. Both the eyesight and hearing of puppies continue to develop for the first few weeks of their lives.
  2. The eyes of the puppies start to open from the outside and slowly proceed towards the nose. 
  3. Even after opening their eyes, puppies do not have clear vision. They see hazy images and can hardly make out shapes. It takes more time for them to start focusing their vision. 
  4. At the initial stage after opening their eyes, puppies can only make out light and shadow. They gradually start identifying shapes and colors much later. 
  5. Dogs in general have more rod cells than cone cells. Rod cells are a type of cell present in the eye that helps to see at night. Cone cells on the other hand help in seeing in daylight. Due to the presence of high numbers of rod cells dogs even from an early age have better night vision. 
  6. Dogs see blue and green colors prominently. This is called dichromatic vision. 
  7. Did you know that dogs too need sunglasses? Dogs’ eyes are sensitive to light and that is why it is important to get them doggles (goggles for dogs) while stepping out at day time. These doggles are also extremely helpful while going on bike and car rides. It prevents damaging the eye from any flying objects when they stick their head out of the windows. 
  8. Puppies are commonly born with blue eyes. This color goes through changes one or two times over their life. The first change occurs at about three-four months of age. The original color of the eye emerges at this time. For some dogs, the color may go through another change at a later age. But this should not be confused with the change in eye color of the senior dogs. Aging eyes tend to develop a bluish white ring around the eye. 
  9. Dogs could be needing glasses and lenses as well. They are genetically myopic (near-sighted). But if the case is too severe they could need glasses or lenses to correct the condition. 
  10. Some breeds of dogs open their eyes sooner than the others. Breeds like cocker spaniels open their eyes earlier as compared to fox terriers. Golden retriever puppies take a moderate time of about 10-14 days.