We all know that our dogs have feelings, and that they can be happy or sad. But, do dogs actually cry real tears when they get sad? Dogs are highly sensitive pets, and they experience a variety of emotions, just like humans. Dogs also have tear ducts, so it makes sense that they can cry tears when emotional. However, there isn’t any scientific proof that dogs shed tears from sadness; they might just have watery eyes. As far as scientists know, humans are the only species that cry for emotional reasons. So if you have a dog crying tears, it’s important to figure out why.
Dogs Cry Differently Than Humans
Dogs do “cry” when they are sad. However, dogs vocalize their feelings rather than shedding tears. They begin doing this as puppies by crying out for their moms when in distress. They learn to make distinct sounds that their mother can recognize instantly. As they get older, dogs may continue this whining when sad.
Once they have matured, dogs generally consider their human owners to be the pack leader, or mother figure, and will direct their whining or crying towards them. Many dog behavior specialists believe that dogs suffering from separation anxiety will whine for their mothers, just as they did when they were puppies. And similarly, when they are sad, they go to that person who plays the parent role.
Separation anxiety isn’t the only reason for dogs whining. They can be sad, in pain or attempting to let you know that they’re feeling uncomfortable or want something. Also, dogs may howl at times, which is just another form of “crying”. In fact, many experts believe that howling is a dog’s ultimate expression of sadness.
Dogs Are Compassionate
Even though dogs don’t cry tears like humans or for the same reasons, they seem to be aware of when we are feeling upset. For example, they’ll sit right there beside us when we are crying and try to comfort us and make us feel better. Studies show that this may be instinctual for dogs.
Why Do Dogs Shed Tears?
If dogs don’t produce emotional tears, why do they tear up at all? Studies show that there is oftentimes a medical reason behind dogs having tears. In fact, those watery eyes may be a sign of a serious medical condition. A dog’s tear ducts perform two main functions – they keep the eyes clean and help make sure that the eyes function properly.
A dog’s tear ducts work somewhat differently than humans, though. For dogs, the tears or liquid will drain back into the throat and nose rather than from the eyes.
Dogs with watery eyes may suffer from the following:
- Allergies – Similar to humans, dogs may have allergic reactions to things like pollen, smoke, dust, certain foods, etc. If your dog’s allergies are severe enough, she may need prescription antihistamines
- Blocked Tear Ducts – If your dog’s tear ducts are blocked, she may experience eye irritation as well as damp eyes. This is something that needs to be treated by a veterinarian
- Infection – Watery eyes may also be the result of an eye infection. You should contact your veterinarian if the fluids from your dog’s eyes are discolored (yellow or bloody) or the your dog’s eyes are swollen and/or seem irritated
- Dirt – Watery eyes can result from something as simple as a small amount of dirt in your dog’s eye. In most cases, this isn’t serious and your dog’s tears should naturally flush out any dirt. However, if the problem persists, veterinary care may be needed
- Scratched Cornea – This is not very common but it may be the cause of your dog’s watery eyes. A scratched cornea can lead to tearing and it may also cause your dog to start clawing at her eye, blinking a lot, and/or developing swelling around her affected eye.
Treating Watery Eyes In Dogs
If your dog has very watery eyes, the first thing you should do is figure out what is causing the problem. This will likely involve a trip to your veterinarian, who can make a diagnosis and work with you to treat the issue. The cause might be something as simple as an allergy to certain foods or treats in her diet, detergents that you use around the house, etc. In most cases, you can remove the source of allergies from your home to solve the issue. However, if this is not feasible, your dog may need to take medications for allergies.
If the problem is dust or debris in your dog’s eyes, you can try regularly wiping your dog’s eyes with a warm, damp washcloth which will clean it and remove the cause of irritation. If this doesn’t clear up your dog’s watery eyes, she may have an infection. Treatment for this will oftentimes require antibiotics.
It’s not recommended to try and self-diagnose the issue yourself so work with your vet to run the necessary diagnostic tests.
Yes, Dogs Cry But In Different Ways
Your dog isn’t actually crying when she has watery eyes. In fact, there are a variety of other reasons for runny eyes, and we can’t stress enough how important it is to work with your veterinarian to solve the issue. In most cases, the cause is not likely to be anything overly serious, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!