Eyesight Development in Newborn Puppies

There's nothing cuter than watching a newborn puppy learn to explore the world with his eyes closed. If you've ever raised a litter of puppies before, you know the thrill of seeing them open their eyes for the first time. Puppy eyesight is fascinating, and knowing the different stages of eyesight development will help you to better understand what's going on as a litter ages.

Four days old puppy
Eyesight Development in Newborn Puppies
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Puppy eyesight at birth

According to Psychology Today, puppies are born blind and with their eyes closed. Their eyes are not fully formed when they are born, and exposure to light immediately after birth could damage a puppy's eyes, so their eyelids are tightly closed at birth. The eyelids protect their eyes from being damaged by dirt or other foreign objects, giving them time to fully develop before being exposed.

Puppies’ eyes open

Once puppies are 10 to 14 days old, their eyelids open, states Pet Coach. The puppy's eyeball is still immature at this point and will have a blueish-grey color. The iris is the portion of the eye that appears blue, and the cornea may seem to be transparent.

Puppies can see only movement and shapes when they first open their eyes. However, their eyesight will quickly improve as their eyes finish maturing.

Eyes fully developed

According to Pet Coach, most puppies' eyes will have fully developed by the time the puppies are eight weeks old. Some breeds take longer to mature, and puppy development is slower. By eight weeks of age, the cornea will appear clear, and the iris will have assumed its true coloration.

Once puppies are eight weeks old, their vision will have dramatically approved and should be as accurate as an adult dog's vision.

Assessing vision

Once a puppy's eyes are open, you can assess their vision by silently tossing a cotton ball into the air, recommends Pet Coach. Be sure that you don't make any sound, since this could catch the puppy's attention and skew the results of the test. The puppy should watch your hand motion and follow the path of the cotton ball up into the air and then down onto the floor. If an older puppy doesn't follow the motion, or only seems to see the cotton ball out of one eye, it may be time for a vision exam with a vet to look for potential problems.

Puppy vision problems

Hopefully your puppies will all experience normal eyesight development, but sometimes things can go wrong. Chewy states that in some cases, puppies can have eye infections before their eyelids ever open. You may see that the eyelid is swollen, or there may be discharge leaking out of the eyelids. In this case, take the puppy to the veterinarian for treatment. The eyelids may need to be opened to clear out the infection, and your vet may recommend that you use an antibiotic ointment specifically for dog eyes.

Puppies can also experience eye trauma, especially if they're playing and run into something before remembering to close their eyes. Common issues include eye irritation, corneal scratches, and eyelashes that turn in and press into the cornea. Your puppy may squint, hold his eye closed, or have a discharge coming from his eye. Some puppies may also try to rub at their eyes if they're experiencing irritation. When these problems are caught and quickly treated by a vet, they often fully resolve with no long-lasting issues.

There are also a few congenital issues that can affect your puppy's eyes. Some puppies can be born missing an eye, or with a very small eye. Other defects include choroidal hypoplasia (a condition when a layer of the eye is underdeveloped), a detached retina, and even juvenile cataracts. Each of these issues is quite serious, and veterinary treatment is necessary.

Veterinary help

The eyes are particularly sensitive and vulnerable parts of a puppy's body, and any eye issue should be treated as serious. Call your vet right away if you notice a potential problem with your puppy's eyes or eyesight. Often, the sooner you treat an eye issue, the better the outcome will be.