Can Dogs Cry Tears? What Tears Mean For Dogs & Why Dogs Cry


can dogs cry tears

It’s a well-known fact that dogs howl, whine and yip as a means of expression. This is how they show emotion, just as wagging their tails or pinning their ears back expresses how they are feeling. But can dogs cry?

If you’ve ever seen your dog with watery eyes or perhaps seen a tear fall, you’re probably wondering if dogs cry to show emotion. The simple answer is that they do not. Dogs use other means to elicit emotions, and teary-eyes in dogs could be due to a number of factors. 

Do Dogs Cry?

Dogs have feelings just like we do; however, dogs express emotion differently to humans. So if you ever see your pooch with glassy eyes, what do you make of it? Dogs can feel grief and sadness just like us; however, they don’t express it the same way that we do. 

In other words, their sadness does not prompt a flow of tears. An interesting fact is that human beings are the only animals that shed tears as a result of an emotional state.

red and teary eye dog

So Why Do Dogs Cry?

Like humans, dogs also have tear ducts. They function to keep their eyes clear and comfortable. They also drain back into the nasal cavity instead of the eye. So ultimately, this means that something could be wrong if your dog is frequently teary-eyed. 

Some possible reasons are that your dog could be developing an eye infection, he could have allergies, a blocked tear duct or he could possibly have some damage to the surface of the eye. 

So if you do notice watery eyes in your dog, take a closer look to make sure that there isn’t something on the surface. However, if the problem is continuous and consistent, then you should probably take him in to see the vet.

So How Do Dogs Express Emotions?

Dogs may not cry like you and me; however, they do express the pain in significant ways. Just as human babies, puppies learn to cry out in order to receive comfort, nourishment and safety. So they will vocalize when the play has become too rough, or they are feeling cold, hungry or lonely. 

Dogs tend to whine or whimper as they get older when they are separated from their owners or other furry friends. So while making a one-to-one comparison between dogs and humans is quite tricky, humans are of course, more complex in their emotional and physical position. 

Dogs do feel a range of emotions that pertain to their surroundings and impulses as opposed to feeling bursts of emotions. Ultimately dogs can adjust their behavior to suit their needs, so there are some expressions that appear emotional and can be manipulative in a more or less innocent way.

Possible Causes of Teary Eyes in Dogs

Scratched Cornea

Your dog could possibly have a scratched cornea if you see him crying. A watery discharge, in some cases, is the culprit responsible for Fido’s tears. So if your dog has glassy eyes, you should take him to the vet to have it assessed. Although dogs don’t cry out of emotion, they have ways to express that. So when they experience feelings of frustration, loss, and loneliness, they may also shy away from activities that they usually enjoy. 

The irritant in the Eye

One of the other possible reasons for your dogs’ crying is that they have some dirt of debris trapped in the eye. In order to ascertain this, simply lift up the lower and upper eyelids and check for debris. If this is the case, then the tears should only last as long as it takes to get the dirt or debris out. 

What you can do is try to wash it out with cool water or use an eyewash recommended by your vet. If there are still signs of irritation, then get Fido to the veterinarian. If there is larger debris that could lead to damaging your dog eyes, you should not try to flush it out and instead simply bandage the eye and get your furry friend to the vet right away. Also, keep your dog’s paws away from his eye. 

upclose dog eyes with tear

Infection

If a yellow or mucous filled secretion comes out of your dog’s eye, this is a strong indication that your dog has an eye infection. Infection, redness in the eye, swelling and inflammation are all signs of infection. So if your dog does exhibit any of these symptoms, then a consultation with your veterinarian is required immediately. 

Spec of Dirt

In some cases, if your dog is showing signs of a teary eye, it could just be a spec of dirt trapped in the eye or possibly even an eyelash in the eye. So once the spec of dirt or eyelash has been washed out, your dog’s eye should return to normal in a short while. However, if there are still symptoms such as tearing or other types of symptoms, then take your dog to the vet for a check-up. So if you see tears in your dog’s eyes, watch him closely and take note of any other symptoms before getting him to your vet. 

Blocked Tear Duct

As we mentioned, dogs also contain tear ducts, just like humans. It keeps their eyes functioning and healthy. However, in humans, the tear duct pushes tears out, but in dogs, it drains the tears down the nasal passage towards the nose and throat. So if there is a blocked tear duct, the liquid will drain outwards and mimic crying in humans. This discharge is called epiphora. If your dog has this condition, the fur around his eyes will be wet, and you may notice reddish circles around his eyes.

Allergies

Dogs like humans suffer from allergies. These allergies could be seasonal or due to detergent or food ingredients. So if you suspect that allergies are the culprit, then a consultation is the only logical step in this case. Ultimately, it will also help to identify and eliminate the allergens. Aside from teary eyes, signs of allergies include hives, swelling, coughing, sneezing and inflammation in your dog. So if you notice any of these signs as well, mention them to your vet for the best possible diagnosis and treatment.

How Do Dogs Express Distress?

When it comes to separation anxiety, it involves a range of expressions. Pet owners know that their dogs whine and whimper quite aggressively the moment their owners are out of sight. So that can be compared to crying in humans. 

Other canines may let us know how they feel by chewing up your favorite pair of slippers or taking a poop on the carpet. So how do we go about interpreting the yelps and yips that are always prevalent when your dog is injured. While humans can cry out of pain for as long as the pain lasts, with dogs, you may probably notice just one or two loud yelps, and that is that. 

So they don’t moan in pain for lengthy periods of time. So this is why changes in energy levels, behavior and eating habits are more reliable ways of telling when your dog is sick or in pain. 

Do Dogs Respond to their Owners’ Tears?

Dogs may not cry as we do; however, can they still sympathize with their owners’ crying? Although they don’t cry in the same way that we do, or for the same reasons that we do, there is no doubt that they are in-tune with their owner’s emotional state.

girl cries with dog on lap

More on Canine Emotions

Although dogs can be manipulative in a pure way, it’s not to say that they are full of tricks all of the time. However, we can never be too sure of what they are up to. In spite of this, owners usually decipher the messages their dogs give off and respond to them adequately. This is the primary source of the bond between humans and canines. And it is undoubtedly an emotional one. 

Humans thrive in response to their pets’ joy, affection and attention. In the same breath, they thrive on our emotions and happiness. Dogs are also capable of making unusual and very distinct sounds if they notice their owners feeling any type of physical pain. 

So this tells us that although they do not express emotion in the same way that we do, they can show emotional aches in other ways. So they do, in fact, have the capacity for empathy at some level.

Conclusion

Whether dogs truly feel compassion in the same way that we understand it is an unanswered question. However, their willingness and ability to read our distress and provide comfort to us is one of the reasons why they’ve won us over and also one of the reasons why we need to take good care of them. So if you notice any of the signs mentioned above, be sure to take your pooch to the vet for the appropriate treatment. 

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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