As a dog lover, it is a joy to follow the developmental stages of a cute little pup grow into a healthy and bubbly adult canine pal. Upon birth, their eyes are closed and you may be wondering when do puppies open their eyes after they are born and at what age do they begin to explore their world?
Now, we’d be touching on the senses of your puppies, focusing more on their sense of sight. Let us explore interesting issues as to why their eyes are closed at birth and when do puppies’ eyes open fully.
Why Are Puppies Born With Their Eyes Closed?
There are valid reasons as the following:
- Unlike other mammals, the gestation period is short, on the average, the length is between 58 and 63 days. Why did evolution make the canine gestation period short? In the wild, canines survive through hunting. If the gestation period is longer, a pregnant Mom will find it too difficult to chase animals and be part of a pack with a heavy belly that’s full of a litter of puppies. Thus, giving birth early is a huge advantage when it comes to hunting. However, due to the short gestation period, eyes are not yet completely developed at birth.
- After birth, the Mom can still help search for food since she can leave her ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ litter behind in a safe den.
- Since they are protectively and safely confined in a maternal den, puppies are not exposed to a huge amount of environmental factors, thus, their eyes do not function right away at birth.
- When do puppies open their eyes? Due to a short gestation period, the important organs like their brains are not yet fully developed at birth. The same goes for their eyes and ears. The main reason your puppies’ eyes are shut at birth is for protection.
- When they are born, their eyes are still in the developing stage and are very fragile. Closed eyelids are the best way for Mother Nature to protect their still immature optical system from environmental damages like debris (dust and pathogens) and bright sunlight. Any of the debris can injure the fragile photoreceptors of the eyes of the pups.
- Their lovely eyes are closed at birth because their neural system is not yet capable of processing visual information. Again, blame it on the short gestational period.
- Dogs are altricial species.
What Does Altricial Species Mean?
Puppies, being altricial species are very dependent on their Moms during the first weeks of their lives. Let us go deeper into the differences between the altricial and precocial species so you can better understand the issue of when do puppies open their eyes after birth.
Altricial vs Precocial Species
As mentioned earlier, puppies’ eyes open a few weeks later after birth for the simple reason that they belong to the altricial species. By this, it means that they cannot hear nor see anything at birth.
Being altricial, puppies cannot regulate their body temperature. They also need their mom to help them with urination and defecation during the first few weeks of life. They cannot look for food so they are dependent on their mother for nourishment.
Not to forget that altricial species have very limited motor skills. They can only crawl a short distance a few weeks after birth.
Your puppies’ ancestors in the wild are raised and nursed at a special den. There was no need for them to hide and escape as for most parts, wild dogs are the predators themselves. Thus, there is no risk if the eyes are closed after they are born.
On the other hand, the precocial species (have longer gestation period ) like lambs and piglets are not born blind and are capable of standing and moving around. Since they can move about, precocial species have to go around in herds, lest the young are at risk that the predators would eat them. Thus, their eyesight should be working well at birth to avoid the wrath of the predators.
When Do Puppies Open Their Eyes?
Puppies start to open their eyes around nine to eleven days after birth. This can differ among breeds and individual dogs as some pups may require a longer time to open their eyes. Some say that smaller breeds tend to open their eyes earlier than the larger dog breeds.
As their eyes open, these would have some cloudy appearance on them. But, no worries as this will eventually fade in about 24 hours. From there, you will notice a bluish shade in the eyes of your puppies. The reason for the blue eyes is lack of melanin.
Although this is an exciting phase in your puppies’ developmental stage, caution must be taken during this time.
Yes, their eyes are already open but what they see are still blurry images. Avoid exposing your pups to bright light, too because the lenses of the eyes are still weak at this time. What you can do is to expose them to dim light. For example, you can set the light of your mobile phone to low at night time. Or, in case you are using a heat lamp, we recommend that you place the light cloth over the lamp for a subdued light condition.
Also, be careful when using a flash camera as it can be too harsh for the developing eyesight of your puppies.
It will take a few more weeks before their vision gets clearer.
As their eyesight develops, so is the eye color changes. From a bluish color, the true colors of their eyes begin to show at about two months.
Do puppies’ eyes open at the same time? The answer is no. Their eyes do not open at the same time. The other eye will open after a day or a couple of days after the first eye opened.
When Do Puppies Begin to See the World Clearly?
Around 30 days after birth, the retina of their eyes is getting fully developed, thus, they can already distinguish between light and shadow.
However, it is only in the second month that the pups start to see images clearly. At this stage, you’d see them stare at you, look at their mom and littermate, and other objects around them.
Puppy eyesight at 12 weeks of age should already be completely functional.
What If Puppies’ Eyes Don’t Open?
When your puppies have reached twenty days and have not opened their eyes yet, you may already be asking the question when do puppies open their eyes. Though at that time their eyes should already be open, just like humans, developmental delays are also possible.
Aside from delays, another reason could be rheum in your pups’ eyes. Rheum is an eye secretion like glue. This makes it difficult for the eyelids to open.
Can you do something if the cause is rheum? Only if you are sure that it is rheum, get a sterilized gauze, and then pour some saline solution. As gently as possible, wipe the gauze over the puppies’ eyelids to get rid of the rheum.
BUT, if you see some secretions or inflammations, do not attempt to clean the eyes. It is better to take the puppies to the vet for an eye evaluation.
We also do not recommend that you try to open the eyes of the puppies. If you do so, you only risk them from contracting permanent vision damage. When do puppies open their eyes? When their ocular systems are ready and this is why it is not a good idea to force open your puppies’ eyes.
What Are the Issues to Watch Out for Regarding the Eyes of Your Puppies?
Sometimes, aberrations happen. Here are some of the issues and red flags that you may encounter regarding the eyesight of your puppies:
- Each pup is different so do not expect all of them to open their eyes all at the same time.
- Do not even think of force opening the eyes of your puppies. Leave it in the hands of the vet doctor in case the eyes are not yet open at the expected time. If you do, it could only lead to irreversible eye problems.
- Look for eye discharge, mucous, crusting, and swelling. These are telltale signs of an eye disorder.
- Pups may develop corneal ulcers. This happens when they play and scratch another puppy’s eyes with sharp nails. What you can do is to use a regular nail file to avoid the issue of corneal ulcers.
- If you see the eye muscle ‘blinking’ even if the eyes are still closed, no worries as this is a natural response to light.
- Some of the puppy breeds with light skin pigmentation may react to bright lights as their eyelids are more transparent.
- It is normal to see the eyes of your pups glistening. This is an indication that the tear ducts are functioning well. But, those puppies that may open their eyes earlier than normal may have some issues with their tear ducts. How do you know that the tear ducts have a problem? Their eyes look dull and dry. In that case, you may have to use an ophthalmic solution.
- Watch out for problems caused by trauma which is not uncommon for puppies’ eyes. This is especially true among toy and small breed dogs who have very round eyes with shallow pockets. Examples are Pekingese and Pugs.
Canine Eye Problems That Are Present at Birth
The term congenital means that eye problem or disorder is present at birth. Many of these disorders are due to genetics.
One example is the eye problem referred to as microphthalmia wherein one eye is missing or both of the eyes of the puppies are too small. The cause of this is a developmental problem that stemmed from the embryo. Puppies that have this canine congenital eye problem do live normal lives.
Then, there is also the Collie eye anomaly or CEA. Some dogs have severe while some have milder versions of CEA. Vision loss is one of the signs.
There is such a thing as a juvenile cataract in puppies. The causes are either due to genes or due to environmental factors.
How Do You Take Care of the Eyes of Your Puppies?
Now that you know the time when do puppies open their eyes, you also have to take care of those lovely eyes so your pups will grow up with clear visions.
By the time they see the world clearly, puppies love to explore and be adventurous. That being said, they are prone to catch eye infections.
Clean the eyes of your puppies with water-saturated cotton balls. Wipe these across the eyes to remove germs and gunk that can lead to eye infections. If the gunk is not removed from your puppies’ eyes, there is a tendency for the eyelids to get glued together. This can escalate to a bigger problem like cornea damage.
And, make it a habit to check their eyes for discharge and squinting as a way to prevent their eyes from permanent damage.
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Your puppies’ eyes are shut at birth because of a short gestational period. Upon birth, their system continues to develop, their eyes including. In time, they’d be able to see how beautiful the world is with you by their side.