3 min read
How Long Does it Take for Puppies to Open Their Eyes?
By Aurus Sy
Published: 12/30/2021, edited: 12/30/2021
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Puppies have boundless energy and are always in motion—anyone who’s ever raised one will agree that they can be a handful. Newborn puppies are very different, though. Without the ability to see, hear, or walk, neonatal puppies are entirely dependent on their mother and navigate the world only by smell.
So when do they gain their sense of sight? How long does it take for puppies to open their eyes?
At what age do puppies open their eyes?
Puppies generally start to open their eyes 7 to 14 days after birth. The eyelids stay closed for those first couple of weeks for a very good reason—the nerves in a newborn puppy’s eyes are still underdeveloped and are very sensitive. Some puppies will open both eyes at the same time, while others will open one eye first before the other.
Still, a puppy doesn’t have clear vision from the moment they open their eyes. As the nerves in their eyes continue to develop, so too does their eyesight continue to improve over the next several weeks. It’s only when they’re around 8 weeks old that puppies acquire full vision.
What to do if a puppy does not open their eyes
Exactly how long it takes for puppies to open their eyes varies from individual to individual. However, if a puppy is already more than 2 weeks old and still hasn’t opened their eyes, then it’s time to visit the veterinarian. Your vet may clean your puppy’s eyes and try to open them manually. If there is an infection, follow-up with an antibiotic ointment may be recommended.
If it’s not possible to bring your puppy to the vet right away, try gently massaging the eyelids with a cotton ball dampened with warm water, but never attempt to force them open. If the eyes remain closed, take them to the vet. Additionally, if you notice any swelling, bulging, discharge, pus, or other abnormalities under the eyelids or around the eyes, seek veterinary care immediately. Swelling or pus can indicate infection and requires prompt medical treatment.
What to expect after a puppy opens their eyes
A lot of things happen during the early weeks of a puppy’s life. They begin to mature physically as soon as their eyes open, so your puppy should be trying to stand by week 2, and attempting to climb out of their pen by week 3. They should be walking, running, and playing by week 4, and have all their baby teeth by weeks 5 to 6. If you observe anything unusual in your puppy’s development, contact your vet to see how they are progressing.
Eye issues in puppies
While it’s possible for an infection to occur before a puppy’s eyes open completely, eye problems during the first couple of weeks are rare. You’re more likely to encounter eye problems in puppies when they’re a little older. The most common issues include:
- Corneal injuries. Puppies have little sense of self-preservation and can forget to close their eyes while running into brush or wrestling with their siblings, leading to irritation or scratches on the cornea. Many toy and small breeds are especially vulnerable due to their prominent protruding eyes. Signs of corneal damage include bloodshot eyes, holding the eye closed, and discharge. If you suspect your puppy has a corneal scratch, it’s important to take them to the vet right away to avoid potential permanent scarring.
- Entropion. This is a condition where the puppy’s eyelid rolls in, causing the lashes to rub against the cornea. Entropion is one of the most common hereditary eye problems and can affect both bottom and top eyelids. Signs include squinting, holding the eye shut, and excessive tearing. Entropion can only be treated by surgery, and most dogs will have to wait until they are 6 to 12 months old before they can undergo the procedure.
- Dry eye. Dry eye occurs when there is inadequate tear production. Since tears lubricate the eye and carry away foreign material, reduced tear production can lead to infection or damage to the cornea. Signs include excessive blinking, pawing at the eye, and discharge. While not immediately serious, dry eye can be very uncomfortable and cause permanent damage if left untreated.
Puppies may be born blind and helpless, but it doesn’t take long for them to transform into curious, mischievous bundles of energy. Be prepared to have your hands full once they open those eyes!
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