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It’s natural for humans to anthropomorphize their pets. Since you can only truly understand the world from your own viewpoint, it’s easier to relate to your dog on human terms than on dog terms.
That’s why a lot of dog owners think their dogs are sad if they see them shedding tears from their eyes.
But do dogs cry real tears from sadness and emotion? We’re going to tackle this subject and let you know what’s really going on if you see your pup crying real tears.
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Do Dogs Cry Real Tears From Sadness?
Let’s get straight to the point here. Do dogs cry with real tears, like humans do, when they’re sad or overcome with emotion?
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the answer is “no.”
That’s not to say that dogs aren’t capable of producing tears. Like the majority of land mammals, dogs do have tear ducts and are technically capable of producing tears.
These “tears” have a much more practical purpose, however. The liquid produced by the tear ducts helps to lubricate the eyes and keep them healthy.
This liquid generally speaking stays within the eye area and doesn’t fall out of the eye like human tears. If you do see tears coming from your canine companion’s eyes, then there might be something more serious going on.
How Do Dogs Show Their Emotions?
Just because dogs don’t cry to show their emotions, it doesn’t mean that they don’t get sad, grieve or experience other emotions.
In fact, humans seem to be a bit of an anomaly, as we’re the only animal that cries tears from emotion. Even other primates and animals that are known to experience complex emotions don’t get all wet about it.
If you say your dog’s “crying” when they whine or whimper, you’re not the only one. Although they’re not using tears, whines can signal that a dog is sad, lonely, distressed, and a variety of other things.
Dogs start whining to signal that they need something from as soon as they’re born. Puppies are often out of their mother’s sight, and dogs rely on their hearing much more than we do. Therefore, it makes much more sense to give a verbal cue that they need something than a visual one.
When a puppy starts whining, their mom can quickly find them, even if the puppy’s out of her sight, and sort out whatever’s wrong. Whereas, if a puppy cried silently with real tears like humans do, their mother might not even notice until it was too late.
But, of course, dogs don’t always whine or whimper when they’re sad. Just like humans, dogs can get depressed.
Since we can’t ask them, it’s not always clear why a dog is depressed, but these are some of the signs to look out for:
- Changes in eating habits
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Not participating in things they used to enjoy
- Becoming withdrawn
- Being less active than normal
Do Animals Cry?
If you still want to know more about whether dogs cry, this video from Animalist has some really interesting information. Although it looks at other animals, as well as dogs, you could certainly learn a thing or two.
Not only does it debunk the myth that dogs cry from emotion or sadness, but it also touches on how dogs cry verbally and why this is more useful to them than silently shedding tears.
If A Dog Appears To Be Crying, What’s Really Happening?
Now we know that dogs don’t cry from sadness or any other emotions. But, dogs do sometimes have tears leak out of their eyes.
So, what’s really happening?
When dogs have an abnormal overflow of tears, it’s known as epiphora. But, epiphora isn’t a disease or a condition all on its own, rather it’s a sign or symptom that something else is going on.
A number of underlying medical issues could be causing this excess of liquid from the tear ducts.
A common cause is allergies, which could be seasonal or down to a variety of environmental factors, from dust to cotton to some ingredient in a new cleaning product.
Other causes include,
- rhinitis or sinusitis
- a fracture or other injury to the bones in the face
- a tumor of the third eyelid, tear duct, nasal cavity or other areas of the face
- blocked tear ducts
- corneal ulcers
- eye infections
- abnormal eyelashes
It could also be as simple as your dog getting a foreign body, like dirt or dust, in the eye. Plus there are some breeds that are more prone to shedding tears due to their physiology or that develop watery eyes after sneezing.
Also, you should check for other kinds of discharge. If it’s not just a clear, watery substance coming from your dog’s eye, it could be a sign of something more serious. Look out for discharge that’s yellowish or greenish, bloody, or thick like mucus.
Are Some Dogs More Likely To Get Teary-Eyed?
As mentioned briefly above, some breeds are more prone to epiphora — or tearing up — than others.
Labradors aren’t especially susceptible to having an overflow of tears from their eyes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t occur in Labs. Dogs with certain physical characteristics are more likely than others to have this issue.
Brachycephalic breeds — that is, dogs with “squished in” faces like pugs or Shih Tzus — are prone to epiphora.
Also, dogs that have either ectropion or entropion have a predisposition toward tearing up for no other reason.
Ectropion is where the eyelids are “saggy” and turn outwards, for instance in breeds such as bloodhounds and great danes.
Entropion is the opposite, where the eyelids turn inwards and the eyelashes irritate the eyeball as a result. Entropion is an abnormality that affects some dogs rather than being a trait of a certain breed. That said, some types of dogs are more likely to suffer from it, including shar peis and mastiffs.
Entropion often requires surgery to correct, so consult your veterinarian if you think your dog might have it.
What Should You Do If A Dog Looks Like They’re Crying?
As noted above, a range of underlying medical conditions could be causing your dog to look like they’re crying.
If it’s just a one-off occurrence, it’s probably nothing to worry about. More than likely, the tears are caused by some dirt or dust that’s got in your dog’s eye and will work its way out in due course.
However, if the problem persists, if there is a lot of watery discharge, or if you regularly notice your dog “crying” then you should take them to the vet to get checked out.
While, in many cases, it’s nothing too concerning, there are some nasty conditions that can cause epiphora in dogs. It’s always better to err on the side of caution!
It’s pretty clear that dogs don’t shed tears because they’re upset. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of sadness or other emotions. Nor does it mean they’re not capable of producing tears.
If you do notice your dog looking as though they’re crying, it could be a sign of an underlying medical issue. So, if this problem persists, it’s wise to get your canine companion checked out by their veterinarian.
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