There are numerous milestones to keep track of when raising a litter of puppies, including when to expect their eyes to open. Healthy puppies should open their eyes anywhere between the ages of 10 and 14 days, depending on the breed. However, if this event happens too soon or too late, it could indicate a problem. Discover how you can know if your newborn pup's eyes are developing appropriately and when you should worry.
Puppy Eye Development Timeline
Although a puppy's eyes are open by the time they are 2 weeks old, their sight isn't completely developed yet. The eyes continue evolving for several weeks after this milestone.
0-2 Weeks Old
Dogs are altricial species, which means they're born in an immature form. Puppies have their eyes closed at birth so the optic structures can remain protected while they finish developing. As the eyes grow under the sealed lids, they may begin to respond to light.
2-6 Weeks Old
Between 10 and 14 days, a puppy's eyes will begin to open. One eye may even open a few days before the other, so don't be alarmed if this happens. Allow the eyes to open naturally and do not force them.
A puppy's sight is very blurred at this time, although it's likely that they can see shapes and movement to some degree. Their vision will continue to improve and develop over the next several weeks. Avoid bright light (natural or artificial) during this critical stage of development, as it could negatively impact the puppy's sight. Also, keep the environment clean to prevent debris or bacteria from entering the eyes.
6-16 Weeks Old
A puppy's sight is nearly completely developed around 8 to 12 weeks old. Keep in mind, dogs can't see sharp detail or colors the same way humans do. Instead, they excel at detecting movement, so don't panic if your puppy doesn't notice an object until you wave it around.
All puppies are born with blue eyes, but they won't necessarily stay that shade. Puppy eyes will gradually change to their final color anywhere from 9 to 16 weeks of age.
Do All Puppies Open Their Eyes at the Same Age?
The exact age a puppy's eyes will open can depend on their breed. In general, small breed dogs may open their eyes before larger breed puppies. This could be because smaller dogs tend to develop more quickly than those that are large or giant. However, puppies of the Fox Terrier breed appear to defy this rule and sometimes go 21 days before opening their eyes.
The rate of development can also differ within the same litter. It's not uncommon for the largest puppy to open their eyes first and the runt to be the last. Each puppy is unique and will likely hit growth milestones at different times.
When to Worry About Newborn Eyes
A few different scenarios could indicate a problem with your puppy's eyes. This could be a developmental problem or the result of microscopic bacteria making their way into the eye. Consider the following signs and seek medical advice from a veterinarian.
Puppy's Eyes Opened Too Soon
Should you be worried if your puppy's eyes have opened too early? On average, a puppy will open their eyes around 10 to 14 days, but each dog is different. If the eyes naturally opened a day or two early and the puppy appears to be thriving, this likely is not a cause for concern.
However, exposing a newborn puppy's eyes to the world too soon can result in complications with their sight. If the eye was opened by force, the puppy was born with open eyes, or if they opened well before the 10-day mark, the puppy should be examined by a veterinarian right away to avoid lasting damage.
Puppy's Eyes Remain Closed
What if it is past the two-week mark and your puppy's eyes still aren't open? Because each puppy develops on their own time, it's not unheard of for a puppy to keep their eyes closed even after they're 14 days old. Some puppies may take up to 16 days to develop, whereas certain breeds like the Fox Terrier may not open their eyes until 21 days of age.
If the puppy is otherwise doing well with no swelling, discharge, or matted hair around the eye, they may just be slow to open their eyes. However, if you notice any of these signs or if the puppy is older than 16 days, it's important to see your veterinarian for medical guidance.
Swelling of the Eye
A bulging swelling under the sealed eye likely points to an infection. Most infections of this nature happen when bacteria make their way into the eye during birth or when the puppy's eyes are just beginning to open. Because the eyelids are sealed, the infection can fester and has no way to drain out.
The swelling is likely a combination of swollen tissues and trapped pus. This is a medical emergency, and the puppy must be seen by a veterinarian to safely open the eye, drain the fluid, then address the infection. If left untreated, these infections can result in blindness.
Other signs of concerning eye conditions in newborn puppies include:
- Discharge from the eye
- Crusting over the eye
- Collapsed or sunken eye
When Do Puppies Open Their Eyes?
Most puppies will open their eyes between 10 and 14 days old, which means they spend the first several days of their life navigating the world through only their senses of smell and taste. Among the puppy milestones along their life's journey, developing the ability to see is a significant one. Monitor your newborn puppy for any concerning signs of eye complications and address them early to ensure your pet lives a healthy and happy life.