Paw your eyes only

November 6, 2023

Who can resist a new puppy? Those little paws, that special puppy smell, the way their eyes are squeezed tightly shut as they fall over each other as they’re playing. But did you know that puppies' eyes remain closed for a few weeks after they’re born?

They’re completely closed off to the rest of the world, even their ears are sealed for the first 13 – 17 days, so they must rely on smell, touch, and pheromones, the chemicals that animals rely on to communicate with each other.

Eye contact is very important when building relationships, it’s how human mothers bond with their babies as it increases oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is the hormone associated with maternal bonding and studies have shown that dogs experience a 130% increase in the hormone and humans a whopping 300%, when they look into each other's eyes.

So, what do we need to know about this crucial part of puppy development?

Why are puppies born with their eyes closed?

A puppy’s central nervous system isn’t complete when they’re born; their brain hasn’t developed yet, and the optic nerve has yet to be formed.

Mammals are often born early, before their brains are fully developed, to enable the adult to leave them in a safe place while they hunt and provide for them.

If the eyes stay shut they can develop and grow without the risk of infection or damage by foreign objects, it also protects their eyes from bright light.

When do they open their eyes?

This can vary between different dogs as well as between breeds, for example, the bigger the breed, the sooner they open their eyes, and a Cocker Spaniel puppy will open its eyes before a Fox Terrier, but in general, puppies open their eyes between 10 – 14 days.

They don’t always open their eyes at the same time either; they might open one eye one day, then the next a couple of days later. The most important thing is that it happens naturally and is never forced.

What can they see?

It can take 3 – 4 weeks for a puppy’s vision to develop, but even then they can only detect movement, and everything is still blurry. Their eyes are also still very sensitive, so they need to be kept away from bright lights.

Their vision improves over the next few weeks, and by 8 weeks old their level of vision should be the same as an adult dog.

When should you be worried?

Puppies need careful monitoring as it’s important to deal with any issues as soon as they develop, so keep an eye out for bulging, swollen eyelids, or pus/discharge as this could be a sign of infection and will need looking at by a vet.

If your puppy is three weeks old and still hasn’t opened their eyes, it could mean there are developmental issues. It could just be that the light is too bright, but it’s always worth getting them checked out by a professional.

Common misconceptions

  • It’s a myth that dogs are colourblind; they have different colour receptors which means they see colours slightly differently to how we see them.
  • A dog’s eyesight isn’t as good as a human’s. A 1995 study estimates that dogs have 20/75 vision, so your dog can see things 20 feet away that you can see from 75 feet. This is why their other senses are so good, as they’ve evolved to rely on them more.
  • Dogs are much better at seeing in the dark than us humans; their eyes have more rods, or light receptors, and these let in more light. Take a look at your doggo’s eyes and you’ll notice they have larger pupils. Dogs also have an extra layer of reflective tissue at the back of their eyes that reflects more light back through the retina.
  • Dogs’ eyes are spaced further apart than ours, which means their peripheral vision is better. We humans have a 180-degree field of vision, but the average dog has around 250 degrees. This makes them good hunters because they can see things without having to move their heads.

The Insurance Emporium

Another way to make sure your puppy gets the best start in life is to have a look at dog insurance; here at The Insurance Emporium we insure puppies from 5 weeks old. You can choose from 5 different policy types, some with a range of optional benefits so that you can adapt them to suit your needs, so why not take a look, it could be a real eye opener!

We offer a variety of cover levels, so please check the policy cover suits your needs before purchasing. For your protection, please ensure you read the Insurance Product Information Document (IPID) and policy wording, for information on policy exclusions and limitations.

Visit The Insurance Emporium


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