Did you know there was a period of time where people thought animals didn’t have feelings? They also mistakenly thought animals didn’t feel pain, but thankfully we’ve moved far beyond that line of thinking. If you’ve spent any time around dogs, it’s obvious they’re capable of feeling immense joy, freedom, and empathy. It’s not hard to tell when your dog is sad if you’re familiar with their personality, but it raises a good question: do dogs cry?
Do Dogs Cry?
Humans are one of the only species that produce tears as a result of our emotions. Animals, on the other hand, express their emotions through body language and vocalizations. Sad animals will make vocal noises (whining, whimpering), move slowly, stop eating, or sleep all the time. There’s undeniable proof that all animals, including dogs, have the capability to feel sadness, but there’s a difference between crying and being sad.
Dogs produce tears, but they don’t produce them because of emotions. Instead of producing tears when they’re sad or upset, dogs whine or whimper. Thousands of years ago, dogs best-expressed distress by whining, so the process of natural selection made this their main form of communicating sadness and anxiety.
To summarize, no, dogs don’t cry tears when they’re sad. They’re more likely to “cry” by whining, stopping eating, or discontinuing socializing with their family or canine companions.
What Do Tears Mean?
It’s been shown humans produce two different kinds of tears. We shed tears when we’re feeling emotional, but there are tears produced to flush our eyes of debris and moisturize the eyeball. Since we’re one of the very few species that produce two types of tears, it’s assumed by experts that if a dog produces tears, it’s for a physical reason. If you notice your dog’s eyes producing excessive tears, it means there’s probably something wrong.
It Could Be Epiphora
Dogs naturally produce tears to keep the eyeballs moisturized. However, dogs producing excessive tears/moisture have something irritating their eyes or they’re experiencing allergies. Excessive tear production is known as epiphora. Despite the concerning name, epiphora isn’t a disease or medical condition in itself but a symptom of something else.
When the eyes are functioning normally, the lubricating tears drain into the tear ducts before emptying into the back of the nose and throat. There’s a variety of reasons why the tears don’t drain, but the most common cause is when the tear ducts are blocked. Signs associated with epiphora are wetness under the eyes, brown staining around the eyes, an odd odor, and chronic skin irritation and/or infections.
Diagnosing Epiphora in Your Dog
Your vet will need to ensure there isn’t a cause for the excessive tearing, looking for signs of conjunctivitis, allergies, an injury to the eye, infections, entropion (lashes curling into the eyelid), or glaucoma. Once things like this have been ruled out, the tear ducts need to be thoroughly examined for inflammation or abnormalities.
Dogs with “smushed-in” faces (i.e. brachiocephalic dogs like bulldogs, pugs, Shih Tzus, etc) are more prone to epiphora because their facial structure prevents the tear ducts from draining effectively. Their flat face makes the tears roll over the tear ducts and down their face. Shaggy, long-haired dogs can develop epiphora because their hair blocks the tear ducts.
To test the ducts, your vet puts a bright green liquid called fluorescein stain into the eye. If the ducts are draining normally, there will be a bright green discharge from the dog’s nose. If this doesn’t appear, that means there’s some kind of obstruction in the ducts.
Treating Epiphora in Dogs
When epiphora is caused by a tear duct obstruction, your dog will need to be sedated or anesthetized so a delicate instrument can physically open the duct. Other causes (infections, allergies, etc) need to be treated appropriately with medications or further testing.
Dogs are infinitely capable of feeling a full range of emotions, including sadness. Just because your dog doesn’t leak tears when they’re upset doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling sadness! Remember that whining and whimpering are the unique ways in which your dog shows their sadness, and if they trust you, they’re more likely to show their sadness in a myriad of ways.
Hi, I’m Jacob. I’ve been a professional blogger for over 6 years and in that time I’ve written countless blogs that have reached millions of people. I am a DVM by profession but all you need to know is that I LOVE DOGS!
SDO started way back in 2015 on a whim. I’d read a couple of dozen blogs online while searching for the best products for my pup and the amount of misinformation online from unqualified sources giving potentially harmful advice shocked me. Then suddenly it hit me, hey, I can do this too! And I can do this RIGHT! Without even knowing what a blog was or how it makes money. I jumped right in to share the years of knowledge I have of dogs with the world.
Within a few months I realized that people were reacting extremely positively to my blogs. My website had taken off and I would receive countless emails from happy dog owners telling me how my website was a God-send for them and their pups were doing so much better after they followed my advice. I would get so many questions as well, and in my attempt to consolidate and answer all the questions I would get from my readers, my blog has evolved to the website you see today. Over the years I encouraged my good friend Tina who is also a DVM to share her experiences and better guide the people who read us. By the Grace of God we now reach close a million people a year and we get such a warm feedback on how we have made life easier for new dog owners all over the globe.
As a dog owner only you would know the feeling you get when you come home at night and you pup is there at the door wagging their tail in sheer joy. The bond a person and their dog share can not be explained in mere words. Yet dogs are like children, and they need to be cared for and trained, and that’s why Smart Dog Owner exists, to give you the precise and exact information that you seek about your dog. No matter how minute that detail is, chances are we will be there to help you out! As someone who has raised 7 of her own dogs. Jacob will always help you out.