It’s an exciting time when a litter of baby puppies are born. But there’s more going on developmentally than meets the eye—literally, in the case of their eyesight. Puppies are born with their ears and eyes sealed shut, relying on their other senses to explore their environment. So when do puppies open their eyes?
Puppies are entirely dependent on their mother from the moment they are born. They are unable to see or hear, only navigate their world by scent and touch. Their eyes are fused shut to protect the sensitive, developing eyes underneath. Try as they might, excited owners won’t get a glimpse of their eyes for at least a few days.
The fusion of a puppy’s eyelids serves to defend the eyes as they grow within the womb. The seal acts as a barrier against fluids and protects the eyes from pressure changes as the puppy is born. If the seal was absent or ruptured before birth, the eyes may suffer damage. Once the puppy is safely out in the world, there’s no need for the protective barrier, and the eyes will open when the time is right.
What factors influence the opening?
Many factors influence the timing of this developmental milestone in puppies. The two most significant elements are the puppy’s breed and ultimate adult size. Together, these two factors work together to determine when a pup can peek at the world.
In general, larger breed puppies take longer for their eyes to open. A Chihuahua or Yorkie, for example, will open their eyes faster than a Saint Bernard or Great Dane. That’s because smaller dogs reach all their developmental milestones sooner than larger breeds. This accelerated timeline for small breeds means they’ll meet many of those firsts days or even weeks before their bigger counterparts.
Additionally, some specific breeds follow predictable timelines for eye opening more rigidly than others. Labrador Retrievers, for instance, tend to consistently open their eyes between days 10 to 14. Conversely, pug puppies have a broader range of days 8 to 14 when their eyes may open. Other breeds fall somewhere within similar ranges.
So, taking into account variables of breed and size, most puppies will open their eyes within two weeks after birth, usually between days 10 to 14.
What to expect when they open their eyes?
The eyes don’t simply flip open suddenly one day. As the end of the two-week mark approaches, the fused eyelids will slowly start to separate. Once begun, the opening process is gradual, with a little more progress visible each day.
When the separation initially begins, owners may just notice a slit of an opening at first. As the days go by, the small slit widens little by little. During this split, it’s common to see a bit of discharge in the corners of the pup’s eyes. The discharge may make the eyes appear to be stuck closed again even after they’ve begun to open. But rest assured once the eyes start opening, they won’t fuse back together. The discharge is temporary and will clear quickly.
After a few days of slow but visible progress, the puppy’s eyes will open fully. The unveiling of their eyes represents an exciting milestone that enables a puppy to engage with its environment for the first time through sight.
What can they see once they open their eyes?
While an open pair of eyes is an essential first step in their visual development, puppies have very limited eyesight in the first couple weeks after their eyes open. They are initially only able to perceive changes in light, seeing bright light versus darkness. True vision with any clarity takes additional weeks to develop.
Puppies are born with eyes in an immature state, unable to support full, clear vision right off the bat. Focus, visual acuity, and color perception are skills that require further growth and time to evolve. Be patient with your pup during this period as their vision improves little by little each day.