Do Dogs Cry?

Kelly Roper
Dog with tearing eyes; © Eastgraphics | Dreamstime.com

You might assume your dog is sad if you see his eyes filled with tears, but that's likely not the case. While dogs do appear to have a way of showing they're upset, they don't cry exactly the same way a person does.

Dogs Don't Cry Tears Like People

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, dogs don't cry tears like people do. This is because, unlike humans, a dog's tear ducts are designed to drain into his nose and throat, not his eyes. If you see an overflow of tears, it could be a sign of an eye problem.

Dogs Whine and Whimper Instead of Crying

In an article published at Vetstreet, Dr. Patty Khuly, VMD, says dogs don't sob the way people do when they cry, but they do express themselves vocally. When a dog wants something, feels anxious or needs attention, he typically whimpers or whines. This behavior is a dog's closest match to the human act of crying.

Dr. Khuly also notes a dog may also make the same kind of noises when he's in pain, but this usually only happens when the pain is sudden. When a dog lives with chronic pain, he tends to suffer in silence most of the time.

Why Dogs Express Distress Vocally

According to scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, dogs are more dependent on their hearing than their sight, so it makes sense that they have evolved to vocalize distress instead of crying tears. To date, there's no scientific evidence that dogs shed emotional tears like people do when they feel sad or upset.

What Watery Eyes Might Really Mean

If there is excessive drainage coming from one or both eyes, one or both tear ducts may be blocked. However, flat-faced, large-eyed breeds like Shih Tzus, Pugs and Pekingese may naturally tear more because of their unique head structures. Consequently, it's important to pay attention to their eyes and spot trouble as soon as possible.

VCA Hospitals recommends scheduling a veterinary exam to diagnose the cause of any excessive tearing and receive the correct treatment. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Conjunctivitis - This is an infection of the tissue that coats the eye, and it causes irritation, itching, watering and tear stains.
  • Corneal abrasions and ulcers - Infection or trauma damages the cornea and causes excessive tearing. A dog will usually keep the affected eye closed to help protect it.
  • Distichiasis - Eyelashes grow abnormally on the inner edge of the eyelids and irritate the cornea. This leads to inflammation and excessive tearing.
  • Glaucoma - This disease causes pressure to build up inside the eye, and it can cause blindness if not treated. Symptoms include excessive tearing and yellow discharge and enlarged pupils that don't respond to light.

Take Action for Excessive Tearing

Just because dogs don't shed tears specifically because they're upset, that doesn't mean they don't feel emotions similar to humans. They simply express their distress vocally. If your dog's eyes begin tearing excessively, and he seems uncomfortable, give your veterinary clinic a call and take him in for an exam as soon as possible. Your quick action may keep an eye problem from turning into something more serious.

Do Dogs Cry?