Newborn puppies are adorable, but unlike humansorn with fully functioning senses, your new puppy is both blind and deaf at birth.
A newborn puppy has to wait until after they are born to complete the development of their eyes.
- Most puppies open their eyes between 1-2 weeks after birth.
- At that point, your puppy’s central nervous system, optical nerves, and eyes are ready to open.
- It will take a couple of weeks for the eyesight to mature into normal vision.
When a puppy is born, their eyes are still developing. Even if they could open their eyes, they wouldn’t be able to see.
The gestation period for puppies is only two months compared to human gestation of nine months.
The short canine pregnancy is a throwback to ancestors who needed to hunt with the pack to help feed everyone.
Puppies continue to develop outside the womb. They are in a helpless state and need a lot of care before they can be on their own.
The reason puppies’ eyes remain shut after birth is to protect their precious eyes from dirt or bright light that could damage the development of their eyes.
In this article, I will discuss how puppy eyes open, what’s expected, and common eye problems to look for in puppies.
Closed Eyes Stop Debris and Allow Mothers to Hunt
As stated above, and according to Psychology Today, newborn puppies are born with their eyes (and ears) tightly closed.
It seems strange that evolution allows a tiny puppy to be born in a state where two of its major senses are not fully developed.
Varying types of animals back in the dim past had to make choices on reproduction and development based on what would give the species the edge in survival for both them and their young.
In some species, such as deer or cattle, the young had to be ready to run at birth for their survival.
So they had a longer gestation period (approximately 9 months) and were born in an advanced stage with their sense of smell, the ability to stand up almost immediately, and most important of all, they could run to survive at birth if it was necessary.
All their senses were fully developed, including their sight.
Canines, on the other hand, survived by hunting. They needed to be swift of foot to catch a meal on the run. And a pack needed all its adult members to help bring down large prey.
It would have been a disadvantage to have a litter of young puppies stumbling along on a hunt, and they could be fatally injured in the process.
The canine family opted for a shorter gestation period so that the mother could give birth after a couple of months and be able to join in the hunt again while the puppies were stored safely in a den waiting for her return.
Between hunts, the mother dog had plenty of time to care for her defenseless young. The shorter gestation and longer development once born suited the dog family.
This is why the eyes are firmly shut upon birth. They are still developing and are extremely fragile. The eyelid protects the eye by providing a barrier to keep out dirt, grit, or even pathogens.
Puppies’ Eyes Open by Two Weeks Old
The eyes remain closed for up to about two weeks, or from 10 – 14 days old. They can’t see where their mum is, but luckily she is there to keep an eye on them. She will grab them by the scruff of their neck and return them to the nest if they start to wander too far.
Slowly the eyelids separate, and the eye opens to the world. Puppies’ eyes are still very immature at this stage, and they are a blueish-grey color.
The iris appears blue, while the cornea may seem a bit transparent in color. But not to worry, they are still developing, so the eyes are far from done.
Your puppy can only discern movement and shapes at this stage, but before long, their eyesight will improve as their eyes adjust to the light and finish maturing.
It is so exciting to see their little eyes peeking out and viewing their world.
They will still walk into things, wander away, get lost, and cry for mom. Their eyesight leaves a lot to be desired.
But from this moment on, the development of the eyes will improve rapidly.
Their Eyes Are Fully Developed by Eight Weeks Old
By the time the puppies reach eight weeks of age, their eyes are wide open and fully developed.
Of course, some breeds take a little longer to mature, while others may take a shorter time.
As the eyes develop, these little bundles of fluff are ready to explore. Their mom needs eyes in the back of her head to keep track of them all.
By eight weeks of age, your puppy’s vision will be as sharp as an adult dog.
Sadly their experience doesn’t match an adult dog’s, so they will get into all sorts of places if you or their mom is not careful.
Bright shiny objects attract them immediately and they will race in without any fear at all. Young puppies need to be protected from themselves at this age.
Signs of Vision Problems
Here is a list of symptoms that signal that your puppy may be experiencing a problem with their eyes and vision:
- Bumping into walls, chairs, or objects around the home.
- Anxiety or hesitation in new areas that they visit.
- Inflammed eyes or pawing at their eyes.
- Cloudy eyes.
- Eye Irritation – pawing the eye or rubbing the side of their face on the floor.
- Easily startled puppy.
Call Your Veterinarian if You Notice Eye Problems
Even the best of Mother Natures’ plans can go wrong. At the first signs of a problem with your puppy’s eyes, taking them to the vet is the very best option.
If your puppy is not opening their eye(s) and you notice swelling or bulging under the eyelid, discharge seeping out, or any other problem, take your puppy to the vet to get the eye checked out.
If you cannot take your puppy to the vet for some reason, you can try to gently open the eyelid by massaging it using a cotton ball dampened with warm water.
If pus appears when you open the eyelid, you do need to call the vet immediately as your puppy may need antibiotics to clear up an infection. Loss of eyesight can occur if an injury or infection lasts too long.
Once the eyes are open, the puppies can be rough with each other when they play, which can lead to eye damage.
Eyesight is so valuable that any injury or condition needs to be checked by a professional.
Common Problems With Canine Eyes
If you notice your puppy pawing at their eye, or if the eye is red, swollen, or has discharge, it is advisable to get your puppy’s eyes seen by an expert as ignoring it can lead to blindness.
- Eye inflammation could be caused by infection, allergies, autoimmune disease, or injury. Signs of inflammation include redness, squinting, pain, and discharge.
- Eye ulcers or corneal ulcers are often caused by an injury by a foreign object, such as eyelashes sticking into the eye or scratching it, or damage by clothing or toys.
If your puppy protects one eye or keeps it partially closed, get it checked by your vet. If you have a cat, they may have scratched the pup across the eye.
- Cherry eye is a common problem in puppies up to two years of age. Pups have a third eyelid, and when it has a prolapse, it is called a cherry eye.
This condition is a genetic condition – Bulldogs and shorter muzzle small dogs are prone to it.
- Ingrown eyelids (Entropion) result from pressing the eyelashes against the eye and can lead to ulcers. Once again, this is a genetic condition.
Your veterinarian can manage this condition and will often diagnose it very early in your puppy’s life, typically before they have turned one year old.
- Dry Eye Syndrome, otherwise known as KCS, is when your pup’s tear glands don’t produce enough tears. It can lead to more serious conditions, so it is wise to get your pup’s eyes checked if they are red, if they are squinting, or if there is any mucous.
- Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye is the inflammation of the conjunctiva or the mucous membranes that cover a puppy’s eyelids. It’s essential to get a proper assessment of your pup’s eyes if they are suffering from any problem with their eyes.
- Cataracts are a condition of a cloudy or opaque lens in the center of your puppy’s eye, which blocks the light from reaching the back of the eye. Cataracts can lead to poor eyesight, or worse, blindness. They can be caused by injury to the eye, diabetes, infection, or a genetic defect.
- Glaucoma disrupts the balance of production and drainage of fluid in the eyes and increases pressure within the eye. It is one of the most severe problems with a dog/puppy’s eye.
Primary Glaucoma is genetic, while secondary Glaucoma can occur because of injury or infection.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) can eventually lead to blindness, but it is a hard condition to spot. If your pup is bumping into walls or tripping over things, you need to have a vet take a look at your pup’s eyes.
There is no effective treatment available for this condition, but your veterinarian can help manage it.
Puppy Eye Development Cannot Be Rushed
Your puppy’s development will progress as nature has planned it to happen. It is not something that can be rushed.
The gradual opening of your puppy’s eyes is quite magical. It signals the beginning of their independence as they learn to navigate their way around first their birthing quarters, to the run of the house!
A puppy may have a slow start to life, but they more than make up for that when their eyes have developed fully.
Although puppies mostly eat and sleep in the first few weeks of their lives, as they grow and develop they will be into everything!
There is so much for them to see and so much to learn!
The gift of eyesight opens the world up to the curious puppy. Once their eyes are open, it is full steam ahead to a wonderful, exciting life.
Puppies are a precious gift, and they grow into much-treasured companions.
Writer: Jean Brewer