Most people adopt puppies when they’re already a couple of months old. By then, you already have a good idea of what the puppy will look like when it gets older.
But if you’re lucky enough to witness the miracle of birth at home or get the opportunity to see a puppy a few weeks after it bursts into the world, you might notice a few oddities. The biggest is those bright blue eyes!
Most puppies are born with blue eyes. However, they rarely stay that way. While some dogs will keep those icy blues thanks to genetics, about 95 percent of all dogs will develop shades of brown in their eyes. So, when do puppy eyes change color?
Understanding Puppy Eye Color Changes
Before we get into the timeline, why are puppies born with blue eyes, anyways?
It all comes down to a lack of melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives eyes color. Whether your puppy grows up with brown eyes or lighter amber eyes, it’s the melanin that makes that possible.
Technically, puppies don’t have blue eyes at all! Instead, they’re clear. However, those peepers look blue due to how light reflects and refracts inside the iris. Light bounces around and hits your retina to make the eyes look blue. In reality, they’re clear and pigment-free.
If you’re lucky enough to witness a mother dog give birth to a healthy litter, you’ll notice they keep their eyes shut tight! It takes several days for a puppy to open its eyes.
Sometimes, a puppy will go through life blind for their first few weeks until they open their eyes and see the world. That’s when those blue eyes make an appearance.
Melanin takes time to develop. That’s not exclusive to puppies. Even human babies will have different-colored eyes upon birth. Melanin develops over time.
When Do Puppy Eyes Change Colors?
Generally, a puppy’s eyes will change at around four weeks old. That’s when melanin begins to develop. It’s not a sudden process. You may notice that your puppy’s eyes look slightly darker or take on different shades as that melanin comes in.
At around 9 to 16 weeks of age, your puppy’s eye color should be fully developed. That’s about four months old; you can note the changes along the way.
Will My Puppies Eyes Stay Blue?
Blue eyes are a desired trait for many dog owners. It’s a beautiful sight that’s relatively rare in the canine world. As a result, many owners wait anxiously as their puppy’s eyes develop, hoping that they stay blue.
While most dogs will develop brown or amber-colored eyes, some will keep that striking blue shade. It all comes down to genetics.
Parent Eye Colors
One of the best ways to determine your dog’s eye color is to look at the parents. That’s not always possible if you adopt your puppy from a shelter. But if you work with a breeder, they may have the information you want.
If both of your puppy’s parents have blue eyes, there’s a good chance your pup’s eyes will stay blue. However, if one parent has brown eyes, the chances of having blue eyes decrease significantly.
There are also many outliers. For example, two blue-eyed dogs can create a brown-eyed puppy. Even two brown-eyed dogs can conceive a blue-eyed puppy! There’s no way to know for sure.
That said, parent eye colors are a good starting point.
Breeds with Blue Eyes
Another indicator is your puppy’s breed. Any dog can have blue eyes, but some breeds are genetically predisposed to blue peepers. These include:
- Siberian Huskies
- Alaskan Klee Klais
- Australian Shepherds
- Pit Bulls
- Great Danes
- Border Collies
- Catahoula Leopard Dogs
- Cardigan Welsh Corgis
If your dog is albino, it could also have blue eyes. However, those pups are usually a genetic anomaly and are rarer than known blue-eyed breeds.
Dog Coat Colors
Finally, you can look at your dog’s coat to better understand what its eyes will turn into. Again, there’s no guarantee. Eye color genetics are complex, so there are always outliers.
However, most brown or liver-colored dogs will have brown eyes. Meanwhile, dogs with merle coats have a higher chance of getting blue eyes.
Merle coats are predominantly white, but they’re sporting coats with splotches of black or red. Many people describe the appearance as looking like someone randomly painted patches of color on a pure-white coat.
Dogs with this type of coat have what’s called the Merle gene. The Merle gene is dominant and has a high chance of appearing in puppies if one of the parents has it. Before you get too excited, the Merle gene comes with many tradeoffs.
While it causes the eyes to stay blue, it also has a significantly higher chance of health problems.
The Merle gene can cause deafness, blindness, or both. It can even cause misshapen eyes. That’s why you don’t see many dogs with the Merle coat. Breeders consider pairing two dogs with the Merle gene to be inhumane.
In the past, people believed all dogs with blue eyes were deaf. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Even dogs with the Merle gene could be perfectly healthy! This old theory stems from blue-eyed white cats, which are almost always deaf.
That’s not the case with dogs, and having blue eyes or the Merle gene isn’t an automatic sign that your dog has vision or hearing issues. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet to make sure.
Can Dogs Have Two Different Eye Colors?
Have you ever seen a dog with one blue eye and one brown eye? It’s totally possible! In fact, it’s quite common in breeds like the Siberian Husky.
Having two differently colored eyes is a condition called Heterochromia. When it occurs, melanin doesn’t develop properly. Dogs can have Complete Heterochromia, Partial Heterochromia, or Central Heterochromia.
With Complete Heterochromia, the full eye lacks pigmentation. For partial Heterochromia, only part of the eye is blue. That means the dog can have both brown and blue coloration in a single eye.
With Central Heterochromia, blue and brown mix from the center of the pupil to create a beautiful starburst look.
Heterochromia is a hereditary condition that doesn’t cause health problems like the Merle gene. So if you’re lucky enough to have a dog with Heterochromia, you don’t need to worry. It’s natural and harmless!
When to Be Concerned About Blue Eyes
Unless your dog has the Merle gene, there’s no reason to worry about your dog’s eyes staying blue.
However, if your dog’s eye color changes after turning brown, you must visit a vet. A dog can lose the pigmentation in its eye due to injury or disease. For example, glaucoma and cataracts can affect your dog’s vision as it ages. Bringing your dog to a vet is paramount for appropriate treatment.
To sum up, most dogs begin to develop melanin in their eyes at about four weeks old. By 16 weeks, most dogs should have their fully developed eye color.
Don’t be surprised if your dog loses its blue eyes. A vast majority of pups will have brown eyes. The exception is a small collection of breeds and dogs with genetic issues or hereditary traits.
Blue eyes are sought-after by dog owners because of their striking beauty and rarity. However, brown-eyed dogs are just as lovable. If you’re lucky enough to witness your pup’s eyes changing, appreciate those blue peepers and take plenty of pictures!