A lot of exciting developments take place in the first few weeks after a puppy is born. Many potential dog owners are surprised to discover that puppies begin their lives without the ability to see or to hear. Unlike other mammals who are born with the capability for more independence right from the time they enter the world, puppies remain completely reliant upon their mothers for the first two weeks of life at an absolute minimum. Without the ability to hear, see, or walk, puppies need assistance with everything from finding sources of food and heat to urinating and defecating. Though we know that sight precedes the ability to hear, many people wonder precisely when a puppy is finally able to see his surroundings with his very own eyes. When do puppies open their eyes?
Why Are Puppies Born Blind?
Because the gestation period for puppies is so short (lasting only 63 days), many vital organs and systems are not fully developed by the time a puppy is whelped. This means that they will require additional time after birth to reach their full potential and to be ready to adjust to their new world.
Puppies are born with their eyes sealed tightly shut. If their eyes were to be opened in these early days before they are properly developed, it could lead to permanent damage or total visual impairment for life. The closed and sealed eyelids allow a puppy’s eyes to remain protected against bacteria, dirt, light, or small particles.
Why Don’t Puppies Stay in the Uterine Horn Until Their Eyes and Ears are Fully Developed?
We know that the domesticated canines that we share our homes with today had far more primitive origins. These instincts remain alive and well in the modern dog. Since dogs had to hunt for their food, any dog that was unable to hunt due to lengthy pregnancies was a liability to the pack which thrived on efficiency. Shorter gestation periods allowed a mother dog to return to assisting with the scavenging for food quickly. Though her brood was dependent upon her for nutrition, she was still able to join the pack for hunts for brief periods of time. The food she uncovered was critical to allowing her to continue to produce milk for her babies to help them grow as well as to mature and develop.
This cycle provided the helpless puppies with a safe and comfortable den they could rest in while their mothers searched for an adequate food supply. Over time, as her puppies were weaned from mother’s milk to solid food and gained the stability to walk well, they could then join the pack on their quest for proper food, perpetuating the cycle of life as a dog in the wild.
When Do Puppies Most Often Open Their Eyes?
Since each puppy is an individual, it will vary from puppy to puppy as to when they will open their eyes. It is possible that a puppy could attempt to view their world as early as 10 days or even as late as 14 days. Most often, by the end of two weeks, all of the puppies in a litter will have their eyes fully opened. However, it is important to note that simply because a puppy now has the ability to see does not mean that their vision is one hundred percent functional just yet. Though two to three week old puppies are capable of detecting and tracking movement, they lack correct depth perception and visual clarity for several more weeks.
How Can I Know if The Vision Loss is Permanent?
Though all puppies are born blind, sometimes a puppy will be born with a permanent vision problem. Most often vision issues are evidenced by balance or coordination impairment. But there are several other symptoms the breeder or new puppy owner can make note of that could indicate that the ocular development is not proceeding normally. These include:
- Spatial orientation issues including walking into walls or stationary objects
- Startling easily
- Lack of desire to be mobile or to explore new surroundings
- Hesitation before attempting new things
What Can I Do if I Suspect My Puppy Has Vision Problems?
General veterinary practitioners are excellent at diagnosing problems. However, the eye is a highly specialized area requiring a different level of expertise, and often, unique equipment which cannot be found in a typical veterinary clinic.
Most large cities do have veterinary opthamologists your vet can refer you to. These eye clinics perform an examination on your dog which is known as a CERF or CAER exam. This type of eye testing is quite similar to the examination humans receive when checking for vision loss. The pupil of the dog’s eyes is dilated by inserting a few drops of a solution into their eyes. Once the eyes are properly dilated, the opthamologist is then able to make use of microscopes, lights, and other equipment to ascertain any abnormalities or health conditions which may be causing vision impairment.
The CERF examination is frequently done by breeders on all of their breeding dogs as a precautionary measure against passing on any genetically inherited eye diseases, but it can also be used as a diagnostic tool to assist owners with dogs whose vision does not seem to be correct. With most conscientious breeders, any dog who does not pass their CERFT testing would no longer be qualified for use as a breeding animal, and instead, would simply enjoy the life of luxury as a beloved spayed or neutered family pet.
When do puppies open their eyes?
While it is impossible to give a definitive date, Day 12 of life is an excellent average. Some puppies will be overachievers and pop their peepers open as early as ten days with others preferring to catch a little shut eye until Day 14 or even a little later.