Puppies are born with their eyes shut and it generally takes 10–14 days for newborn puppies to open their eyes and longer for them to see clearly. Here’s what to expect as your puppy’s eyes develop.

 

By Doug Jimerson
August 24, 2020
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Credit: Os Tartarouchos / Getty

Unlike human babies, puppies don’t open their eyes right after birth. They don’t need vision right away because newborn puppies are fairly immobile and spend most of their time sleeping and drinking mother’s milk.

It generally takes 10–14 days for newborn puppies to open their eyes. Some breeds may even take longer. Most puppies will open one eye at a time over the course of a few days. Be patient. Don’t try to open their eyes before they are ready. You can damage your pup’s sight if you try to force the issue. Let nature take its course. 

What Newborn Puppies Can See

Don’t expect your newborn puppies to score well on an eye exams even once their peepers are open. Zazie Todd, PhD, author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. says the time in which newborn puppies open their eyes is called the transition period—from week 2 to week 3 of a new puppy’s life. 

When a newborn puppy’s eyes first open, he isn’t able to focus very well. “Their eyesight is a bit blurry,” Todd says. And they don’t tolerate bright light. So you should keep puppies at this early age in a dimly lit location to protect their eyes. Don’t take them into full sunlight. 

How Your Puppy’s Eyes Develop

When puppy eyes first open they start out with a milky, grayish-blue appearance but that clears with time. A puppy’s eyes don’t truly mature until the animal is 4–5 weeks old. In fact, puppies can see before they can hear (their ears open at around 18–20 days), Todd says. 

As a puppy’s eyes start to mature, his tapetum lucidum is developing. That’s the layer of tissue that lies behind the retina that helps the animal develop night vision. (It’s also what causes that eerie green glow when you take a photo of your pet with a flash camera.)

Watch for Eye Infections

While this crucial physical development is happening, it’s all the more important to keep your pup’s environment squeaky clean to avoid infections. The last thing your pup needs is to develop conjunctivitis during this critical period. If left untreated, conjunctivitis can cause permanent blindness. 

Overall, the best thing to do for your puppy when it comes to early eye care is to let nature take its course. Certainly, you should watch for any crusty build-up on the eyes or any other sign that something might be amiss, but in general, just enjoy your puppy transforming itself from a blind, deaf, fur ball into a bouncing, happy animal.