Finding the answer as to when puppies open their eyes can often cause unnecessary stress. Since the first few weeks are key to the health and happiness of your pups (and you!), it’s worth getting to know what to expect and when.
Of course, there are individual differences, so try not to stress too much, unless you’re concerned about your growing puppies. Most people who are wondering exactly when do puppies open their eyes can find themselves becoming stressed by exact deadlines. So, in order to provide you with an accurate idea of exactly when most puppies open their eyes, we’ll be delving into the development stages of pups and what to expect at each stage. This way, you can be reassured without overly worrying about timelines.
When Do Puppies Open Their Eyes
In order to understand the answer to the questions of “how old are puppies when they open their eyes/when do puppies eyes open?”, it’s important to get to grips with the basic developmental stages of a puppy. Being so different from human babies, it’s not uncommon for inexperienced breeders to make simple mistakes – which can lead to devastating results.
That’s not to say that dog owners should assume the worst at all times. But knowing what to expect from your newborn puppies not only helps you to prevent any issues that may come up (with both the puppies and mother dog) but also helps you to feel more confident in what to expect from most puppies.
First and foremost, let’s talk about puppy development in the womb.
Unlike human babies, puppies have a very short gestation period of only 7-9 weeks. In other words, while it takes humans roughly 40 weeks to birth a tiny version of themselves, a puppy will only have a maximum of 9 weeks – and there’s often a lot more of them, to boot. This means there are a considerable number of differences between how developed a puppy will be, when compared to us humans.
For starters, and most obviously considering our topic of discussion, newborn puppies are born with their eyes closed, as well as being deaf and toothless (so, no milk teeth/puppy teeth either). Because of this, puppies are born with their eyes closed. So, when they first appear and aren’t able to open their eyes, don’t worry. It’ll take a while for eyes and ears to open and become fully developed and be ready to open.
The development of newborn puppies
So, as we know, puppies are born with their eyes closed – but when do a puppy’s eyes open? Well, don’t expect anything to happen in the early weeks, as puppies start to open their eyes from around the second week onwards. However, do remember that all puppies have their own timescale and individual differences. That being said, if you’re worried, this is the general timescale of when you can expect from young puppies in the first few weeks of age.
First Two Weeks
Your puppy and their litter mates will spend the first 1-2 weeks in the whelping box, focusing all of their energy on growing. As such, don’t be worried about whether newborn puppies open their eyes or not at this stage. They’ll spend 90% of their time sleeping and will be massively dependent on their mother’s milk to provide them with all their nutritional needs.
Without this, they won’t be able to develop and thrive, and therefore the young pups may struggle with their early growth/development. At this stage, allowing your puppy and their mother dog to rest and grow, with puppies doubling their weight in the first 10 days!
Even though your puppy’s eyes may not be open, you may still notice some “blinking” occurring underneath the lid. Especially when your puppy is placed under a bright light. However, because puppy eyes are not fully developed at this point, it is not recommended to try this, unless your vet is performing some basic tests.
Between Two and Four Weeks
Between 10 and 14 days, a puppy’s eyes open. It’s during these and the following weeks that your puppy’s eyesight will begin to form and your puppy’s vision will begin to play a part in how they interact with the world! If, at around three to four weeks of age, your puppy’s eyes haven’t opened, you should speak to your vet and look at helping your puppy along.
We give some basic advice on how to help your puppy’s eyes open, below – but you should always follow the advice of a professional first and foremost. This is because they will know you and your puppies best, and can give more detailed advice and reassurance about when to worry about your puppy keeping their eyes shut and what stages their development is currently at. They may also perform some basic tests, to see if there is anything wrong with your puppy’s eye.
Between Four to Seven Weeks
At this point in your puppy’s life, you should expect your puppy’s eyes to be open wide – but the optical nerves may take a little longer to be in full, working order. Before 8 weeks of age, most pups will have an immature eye, which has distinct features.
Namely, they will have a cloudy look over the cornea (the clear covering of the iris and pupil), while the iris itself will most likely be very pale, giving the appearance of white or blue eyes. They will also be extremely sensitive to bright lights at this time in your puppy’s life.
Owners/breeders should also note that, at this point in puppy development the ears open, too. So, as your puppies grow, this is a distinct time frame in which the world is completely new, scary and extremely interesting. They still may not be able to regulate their own temperature, and their penchant to wander could leave them without an appropriate heat source – including the other puppies, mother dogs or a heat lamp. The latter of which should not be too bright, in order to avoid the risk of damaging eyes which are still looking to develop.
Between Seven and Ten Weeks
By now, the baby teeth will have appeared in your puppy’s mouth – and you’ll probably be VERY aware of that fact! At the same time, your puppies will have been socialising well with their dog moms, litter mates, other puppies and – of course – people. At around 2 months of age, they should also be – or becoming – fully weaned from mother dogs and moving onto puppy food/canned food. If you’re curious about the weaning process or want to know how much solid food to give a puppy, just click the link.
With regards to how their eyes develop after seven weeks, you’ll be pleased to know that their coloring will begin to settle into a blue. However, sometimes you might well be lucky enough to see what color their eyes will be as a fully grown dog!
That being said, puppies eyes are not thought to be completely developed until roughly 10 weeks of age. So, you should still exercise caution as your puppies amble about their exercise pen and do keep an eye on how your dogs develop over these weeks, too.
When to Worry About A Newborn Puppy’s Eyes
Generally speaking, puppies will usually develop in their own time and growing puppies are unlikely to have a great deal of health problems, if all the necessary precautions are taken, ahead of time. However, being aware of the usual stages of development between birth and when they leave home (usually at around 10 weeks) can mean you’re able to take quick measures, when your dog’s vision (or anything else, for that matter) is at risk. The good news is that you also can use other dogs born in the litter as a good yardstick for development.
Some signs and symptoms that something could be wrong with your puppy’s eyes include:
Bulging and/or swelling
While puppies may have little bulges where the eyes are settling into their sockets, after birth (as, puppies born – prematurely or not – are technically underdeveloped compared to us humans) you should always watch out for unusual bulging or swelling. This can be a sign of infection or poor development.
Pus and/or discharge
A puppy that has pus or discharge coming from their eyelids should be taken to the vet as soon as possible. You might also notice adult dogs licking the eyelid area, as the adult dog will often have a good sense when something is wrong with their pup! In this case, take your puppy to the vet as soon as possible, to avoid the risk of permanent blindness.
Eyelids don’t open
If your puppy hasn’t opened their eyes by around day 18 (roughly three weeks) then you should speak to your local vet. Once you’ve done this, you might be after a refresher as to how to help your puppy open their eyes, in which case you can check out our tips, below. However, please don’t look at helping your dogs until you have spoken to your vet, first.
Eyelids open too soon
Unfortunately, there have been some stories of humans getting too involved in the development of their dog and trying to “help things along”. Please be aware that doing so can be incredibly harmful to your dog. Similarly, other pups may accidentally pull on eyelids and cause them to open too soon. In this case, please do contact your vet for the best advice for your dog.
When to Get Involved with Helping Your Puppies Open Their Eyes
For those wondering “how long does it take for puppies to open their eyes” because they’re concerned about their dog’s eyes remaining closed, this section may be for you. If, after three weeks of age, your dog hasn’t opened their eyes, and you’ve spoken to your vet about helping out, then you can follow these instructions to assist your dog. However, you should NEVER try to force the eyelid of your dog open, regardless of time.
How to Help with Getting Your Puppies Eye Open
To help get your puppy opening eyes without harming them or risking eye infections, simply take a sterile cotton ball or cloth and gently wipe the eyes with warm water (not hot!). This process helps to soften any gunk, which may be holding their eyelids together.