As your puppy grows, their curiosity makes them keen observers. Nothing gets by a curious puppy! Your dog can spend hours looking out the window, watching the people (and squirrels!) go by.
Dogs love to satisfy their curiosity by taking in their surroundings and watching what unfolds around them—it really gets their tail wagging. But they’re not born with that ability. Puppies are born with their eyes closed, and until their eyes open, they are blind to their surroundings.
Why are puppies born with their eyes closed? What purpose does it serve? And at what stage of their development do puppies’ eyes open so they can take in their surroundings and experience the world around them?
Read on to learn about your puppy’s eye development—and when you can expect them to blink their eyes open for the first time.
Why puppies’ eyes stay closed
Biologically speaking, human babies are born developed and ready to take on the world. But that’s not the case with puppies.
At birth, a puppy’s central nervous system is still developing, including their optical nerves. Because their optical nerves aren’t fully developed, they’re too delicate for bright light—which is why their eyes remain shut until the nerves are finished developing.
Not only do the nerves need more time to develop—the eye itself isn’t fully formed when a puppy is born. Having their eyes shut allows the eye to develop in safety, without the risk of any foreign objects (like dirt or dust) getting into the eye and causing an infection or other developmental issues.
When do puppies’ eyes open?
Most puppies will start to open their eyes between one and two weeks after birth. At that point, your puppy’s central nervous system, optical nerves, and eyes are all fully developed.
One thing to keep in mind—your puppy should open their eyes on their own. You might be tempted to help them along, but you should let the process unfold naturally. Your puppy’s eyelids will open when the nerves and eye are ready, and forcing them open sooner puts your puppy at risk.
When to talk to your vet
The process of opening their eyes will come easily and naturally for most puppies—but you still want to keep an eye on things to make sure the process is going correctly with your puppy.
Some red flags that something may be wrong with your puppy’s eye development include:
- Swelling or bulging under the eyelid. If you notice there is any swelling or bulging under your puppy’s eyelids before they open, it may be a sign of infection.
- Pus or discharge from the eye area. If there is any pus, discharge, or eye gunk in or around the eyelid area, it also may be a sign of infection.
- Your puppy’s eyelids don’t open by two weeks of age. Some breeds take longer to open their eyelids than others, but if the two-week mark comes and goes without your puppy opening their eyes, it might be a sign of a developmental issue.
If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your vet. She will be able to diagnose any infection or eye development issues and prescribe the best course of treatment for your puppy.