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Does your dog often have watery eyes?
If so, you’re probably wondering if dogs actually cry tears, right?
We’ve all heard about the whining and crying fur babies that entertain us with our lovely voice! My dog Baloo is a master at crying! He used to cry pretty much non-stop for the first few months. Luckily, we’ve got the vocal part under control now.
But what about tears?
Do dogs actually cry tears?
The quick answer is: Dogs don’t cry because they’re overcome with emotion, like humans do. Instead, dog tears serve another purpose: to keep a dog’s eyes clean. Dogs’ tear ducts normally get drained towards the nasal area. If they’re blocked or if he’s suffering from an infection or an allergy, it’s possible that tears will run down your dog’s cheeks.
Now let’s take a closer look.
Do Dogs Cry Tears?
We’ve all experienced grief and pain, or even extreme feelings of joy that make us cry.
As we know, dogs are also highly emotional creatures. But do dogs cry?
And if they do, do they cry for the same reasons we do? Today we’ll discuss the reasons why you’re finding tears in your dog’s eyes.
Do Dogs Cry When They’re Sad?
An emotional movie can turn on the waterworks for us humans. And while we know that dogs also experience sadness and pain, it turns out that humans are actually the only creatures whose tears are emotion-based.
Your sad dog will express his sadness in other ways. Whining, lack of energy, or loss of appetite are all signs that your dog is feeling sad or depressed. Check out Dogpackr’s previous article which lists signs of depression in dogs.
Do Dogs Cry When in Pain?
Tears are a way for humans to show each other that we are in pain. When you stub your toe so hard tears spring to your eyes, that shows the people around us that we are hurt.
Dogs won’t cry when they’re in pain, but they will express their hurt in other ways. Howling, whining, or acting skittish can all be signs that your dog is hurt.
While he won’t show pain by crying, like we do, he will show you that he needs help. Check out Vetsnow’s article which lists other signs your dog may be in pain.
Purpose of Dog Tears
So, if dogs don’t cry because they’re sad or because they’re in pain like we do, then what is the purpose of dog tears?
Dogs have tear ducts like humans. But while our tear ducts help us cry for emotional reasons, dogs’ tear ducts are primarily for flushing out debris and keeping their eyes clear.
However, a dog’s tear ducts actually drain into your dog’s nasal cavity. If your dog is healthy, he shouldn’t be crying tears.
Possible Reasons for Tears in Your Dog’s Eyes
Now that we know a dog will only cry tears if his eyes are unhealthy, what are some reasons why you can see his tears?
The first is infection.
There are plenty of different eye infections that could be affecting your pup. Pink eye, issues with his eyelids, or an inflamed cornea could all be possibilities.
Check your dog’s eyes for discharge which could be mistaken for tears. It might be thick or watery, and might smell. Squinting, swelling, redness, and pawing at his eye are also signs of infection.
Like humans, dogs can also experience allergies. If your dog’s eyes are watery and itchy, they’re sneezing, experiencing chronic ear infections, or have swelling of the face, he might have allergies.
If you suspect that allergies are the cause of your dog’s watery eyes, take him to the vet. Your vet will be able to help you identify what your dog is allergic to, and come up with a plan of action to get rid of the allergens.
Blocked Tear Ducts
As we now know, a dog’s tear ducts empty directly into the nasal cavity. If your dog’s tears are dripping out of their eyes, it could be a sign their tear ducts are blocked.
The discharge that comes out of your dog’s eyes in this case is called epiphoria.
If your dog is experiencing epiphoria, your vet will first check there isn’t something more serious going on with your dog’s eyes. If your vet believes it’s just a blockage, they will sedate your dog and flush out your dog’s tear ducts.
Speck of Dirt
If you’ve ever had dirt, dust, or even an eyelash fall into your eye, you’ve probably noticed you tend to tear up. This helps flush away whatever is irritating your eye.
The same thing is true for dogs. If your dog has a bit of dirt in his eye, he may tear up to help flush it away. In that case, your dog’s eye will get rid of the dirt without any help.
If your dog keeps showing signs of irritation, however, you should go to a vet to make sure his eye isn’t damaged.
Speaking of the vet: Have you ever thought about getting pet insurance for your dog? No? Then check out my article on the question “is it worth getting pet insurance for dogs?“. Or go straight to PetAssure for a cheap alternative to get 25% off each vet visit!
If your dog’s eye is tearing up and he’s pawing at it, it could be a scratched cornea.
If your vet finds an abrasion on your dog’s cornea, they’ll give your dog medication to keep the abrasion from getting infected. The scratch should heal in a few days.
This tends to happen to more active dogs, or dogs that prefer roughhousing.
Eyelid Problems in Brachycephalic Dog Breeds
Brachycephalic breeds are breeds with short, flat faces. Examples are Boxers, Pugs, and French Bulldogs.
Because of their anatomy, the opening of their eyelids is usually wider than other breeds. This can cause problems like eyelids turning in or out, or eyelashes damaging the eye.
If you have a brachycephalic breed whose eyes are bugging him, it’s time to take him to the vet. Your vet will check him out, and provide solutions to help treat or manage your dog’s eye problems.
There is no solid evidence that stress can cause tears in your dog. However, there have been some examples of dogs crying tears because of what is believed to be stress.
Baloo is one such example. Whenever he gets really stressed or excited, he gets watery eyes.
Unfortunately, there have been few studies on this, and it’s difficult to prove.
How Dogs Express Emotions
So, now we know that dog tears don’t show your dog’s emotions but rather that there’s something wrong around his eyes.
Let’s look at how dogs express emotions next.
Dogs don’t communicate through speech like we do. But they do communicate through body language. While they don’t cry like humans to show pain or sadness, they do express it in other ways.
If your dog is stressed out or sad, you might find him hiding, eating less, or uninterested in playing. Here’s some good explanation of stressed anxious behavior:
Likewise, if your dog is happy, his mouth will be relaxed, his tail will wag, and he’ll have a blast at playtime.
Whining, Howling, or Barking
Your dog will show signs of pain or distress by whining or howling. If you notice your dog whining a lot, he could be bored and trying to get your attention. It could also be that your dog is hurt, and is trying to tell you.
Your dog might be howling to get attention, or if he’s injured. Barking is another way your dog may be trying to get you to notice something.
Pay attention to your dog’s vocalizations. If he’s being noisier than normal, he could be trying to tell you something important.
Here are a few other articles that might help you:
- How to stop excessive barking
- Why do dogs bark at night?
- My dog is bored, what can I do? Feat. boredom busters
- Do dogs get tired? Complete guide for a relaxed dog
- How to mentally stimulate your dog
- 21 fun things to do with your dog at home
Your dog’s appetite might change if he’s feeling depressed. If he’s eating less, this will, of course, result in weight loss.
If your dog is losing weight and refusing to eat, he might be depressed. Take into account any major changes in his life when there are significant changes in weight and appetite. The loss of a companion, or even a big change in his environment could trigger depression.
If you think your dog might be depressed check out the 5 signs of dog depression and consider visiting your vet. Your vet will help you come up with a plan, and may even prescribe antidepressants for your dog.
Like humans, if a dog is sad or in pain, you might notice his activity levels dropping. If your dog is usually very active but is suddenly unwilling to play or go for walks, he’s probably trying to tell you he’s not feeling well.
Check out Dogpackr’s previous article about laziness in dogs for reasons why your dog might be acting lethargic.
Excessive Paw Licking
It’s normal for your dog to lick his paws to keep them clean, but licking them too much could be a sign something is wrong.
If you notice your dog excessively licking his paws, there are a few potential reasons why he’s doing it.
Allergies are a major one. Your dog’s allergies might be making his paws itchy, and he’s licking to stop the itchiness.
It could also be a sign your dog is struggling with anxiety. Canine compulsive disorder is very similar to obsessive compulsive disorder in humans. Signs your dog has CCD include compulsively licking his paws.
If you notice your dog licking his paws more than is normal, bring him to a vet. Your vet will be able to diagnose the problem, and set you up with a plan.
It doesn’t always have to be a health issue, though. For Baloo this is another sign or stress or boredom. So, if your pup only does it from time to time, it’s worth to think about if he needs more or less activity, first.
Like us, dogs have tear ducts. Unlike us, however, their tear ducts are directed towards their nasal cavities. Plus, your dog doesn’t cry tears for the same reasons we do.
While we cry to show pain, sadness, or other extreme emotions, a dog’s tears are probable signs of eye problems like infections, allergies, and blocked tear ducts.
While your dog won’t cry tears to show his emotions, he will communicate them to you in other ways. Watch out for signs of depression and stress like hiding, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, or weight loss. They might also communicate to you by howling, barking, or whining.
Even though dogs won’t cry tears to show you he’s sad or hurt, there are still ways to identify that he’s in pain or upset. It’s just a matter of learning his body language!