Do Dogs Cry When They Are Sad?

Do Dogs Cry? 

Dogs are creatures just like humans and have different ranges of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. There is no doubt in the mind of every dog owner who has gazed into their canine friend’s warm and loving eyes that they feel or have emotions. A dog’s eyes can express their feelings of joy towards their human when they go on a walk or play fetch together. It is common to witness emotions of adoration and devotion whenever a dog’s human comes home for the day.  

We often notice that our dogs may display features or actions similar to the emotions we feel ourselves. However, the feelings or emotions our dogs display daily can sometimes be misread. The emotions may look familiar to us but may actually represent something else. For example, we all know someone may smile or laugh when they are happy. So we may assume that a dog would do the same. But when a dog is happy, it will wag its tail. If a dog looks as if it is smiling, it may just be panting as a way to cool down from the heat. Both humans and dogs may be happy, but they display emotions differently. Just as dogs and humans can feel and express the feeling of happiness, they can do the same when they are sad.

When people are sad, they often cry to express this sadness. An interesting fact is that humans are the only animals capable of crying to express emotional distress. Dogs express sadness by vocalizing through a whimper, or they may communicate this feeling with abnormal behavior. When your dog is sad, you might notice that they are wanting to sleep more than usual. You may also see that they eat less and lose interest in their favorite toys and activities. Dogs cannot express sadness with tears the same way as humans. Yes, your dog can produce tears, but they are not representative of their sorrow or emotional state.  emotional dog wrapped in blanket

Canine Emotions 

Dogs do have the capacity to experience and express emotions, just differently than we do as humans. This understanding comes from researching dogs and their behavioral patterns. As children, human beings cannot experience the same range of emotions they do as an adult. As a child grows and develops, they will gain the space and maturity to feel and process more complex emotions. Many difficult emotions are developed socially and take a while to appear as the child grows. Most dogs’ emotional understanding does not progress beyond a human being’s two-year-old mental capability. It is important to remember that there are exceptions to every rule. Some adult human beings are not capable of understanding or expressing certain emotions. They are stuck or limited to a specific emotional range. Also, some dogs are the exception and seem to progress beyond the mental capabilities of a tiny human child. 

Further scientific research has uncovered the reason for dogs’ limited emotional capability. They believe it rests in the fact that dogs age much more quickly than humans. It is for this reason they stop developing mentally at about four to six months of age. Your dog, of course, will continue to mature as it ages, but the development of emotional and mental capabilities ends at that point. Dogs are sensitive creatures that can develop emotions such as joy, anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and love. Dogs, however, in most cases, cannot develop emotions such as shame, guilt, and contempt. These emotions are a bit too complex for their two-year-old mental state. Therefore, we can say without a doubt that dogs are capable of feeling and expressing emotion up to a certain degree. However, their range is limited in comparison to all the emotions an adult human being is capable of expressing.

As puppies, dogs learn to cry out to receive nourishment. They produce a similar cry when they are seeking comfort or safety, or are experiencing anxiety or pain. A dog’s sadness will predominantly be featured by emotional vocalizations such as howling, whimpering, and whining. Sad dogs are also evident by a display of abnormal behavior. You will notice a lack of energy, appetite, or no desire to play with their toys. An interesting fact about dog emotions is that their emotional state is based upon a reaction to their environment. Dogs do not experience a substantial emotional burst of feeling like humans. Instead, dogs will adjust their behavior to suit their own needs. They will continue to react based on their owner’s reactions and behavior until they get their desired result.sad looking dog

Does a Dog’s Breed Affect Their Emotions?

A dog’s breed may affect specific emotional responses they have within their life. The roles that dogs were originally bred for may play a part in what emotions they’re prone to having. If your dog’s breed was bred to be a lap dog, they aren’t going to contain the personality traits of a dog whose sole purpose was to herd sheep and live outdoors. Dog breeds who do better outside will have more impulsive instincts, which may cause their emotional reactions to be much more explosive. There still hasn’t been much research done on this topic. In an interview with The Honest Kitchen, Certified CPDT-KA Melinda Schiller had this to say when she was asked, ‘We often have personality stereotypes that we associate with different dog breeds—do certain dog breeds tend to express certain emotions more than others?’: 

“It’s possible. Certain characteristics are brought out more in certain breeds. For example, my dogs are herding dogs, so their herding instinct can become over-aroused, and when that happens, they become nippy, lunge on a leash, and are reactive to movement because that’s what has been bred into them for years. A lot of herding dogs are Type A control freaks because they’ve been bred to control a herd and keep them safe. These types of dogs can display a lot of reactivity and fear toward strangers. Some dogs with a reputation for aggression, like Dobermans, suffer from problems related to their physiology. The cropped ears and cut-off tails that we associate with Dobermans mean that these dogs are deprived of the two most natural means dogs have for expressing emotions and telling us that they are uncomfortable. Unlike some other countries, America still allows the cropping of dogs’ body parts, which means that these dogs aren’t always overreacting; they’re just reacting normally to overstimulation. We just can’t always tell when they are showing lower-level signs of discomfort.” –  Melinda Schiller, Dog Trainer.

Why Does My Dog Cry?

Anatomically, human and dog eyes are very similar in that they can produce tears. Science has discovered that the biological construction of canine eyes allows them to shed physical tears. Nevertheless, this biological similarity does not extend to the emotional process of your dog shedding tears. The process of a dog shedding tears is usually in response to an irritant such as hair, dirt, or debris. Tears will form to flush the eye of any irritants. 

Prolonged watering of your dog’s eyes may be a signal of something more serious and your dog may need medical assistance. Although human and dog eye construction is similar, it is not the same. A human’s tear ducts will cause tears to pool at the inner corners of their eyes and spill down the face. However, a dog’s tear ducts generally cause their tears to drain into the nasal cavity and down their throat. If this process is disrupted tears will run down your dog’s face and leave tear stains on their eyes. Excessive tearing and the persistence of watery eyes could be an alert from your dog to a more significant medical issue.dog with running eyes

Blocked Tear Ducts

Blocked tear ducts are a common reason for your dog to experience watery eyes. You will notice the blockage if there are tear stains down the side of your dog’s face. This process is abnormal since the biological design of a dog’s tear ducts allows any excess water to drain down the nasal cavity and throat. The process of tears running down your dog’s face is known as epiphora.

Epiphora’s presence signals that your dog’s tear ducts are blocked. Prolonged epiphora will cause skin irritation and fur discoloration on your dog’s face below the eyes. It will usually manifest as a reddish or brownish stain on the fur. A blockage of the tear ducts can occur for a multitude of reasons. Most often, an infection in the nasal cavity or sinuses. It may be possible that parasites are obstructing the tear ducts. Or there may even be some trauma to the bones in that area, causing a blockage to your dog’s tear ducts. All of which will need an eye examination from your veterinarian to proceed with treatment and other options.

Eye Infection

An eye infection is another cause of watery eyes in your dog. The difference here is the addition of mucus or blood in your dog’s tears. Another symptom of eye infection is puffiness or swelling around your dog’s eyes. They will be irritated, and your dog may constantly rub them against furniture, the ground, or even their paws. If you notice any of these signs, it is time to get your dog’s eyes examined by a vet. Leaving an eye infection untreated could cause additional medical problems and possibly the loss of sight.lab looking sad

Corneal Ulcer

Another possibility to explain your dog’s watering eyes could be the result of a corneal ulcer. This condition can also happen to humans and is referred to as a scratched cornea. Dogs become susceptible whenever they push their face into a thorny bush or even play roughly with other dogs. Any sharp object could easily scratch the cornea if not protected by the eyelid. Since the surrounding area will swell, you will notice this condition soon after it occurs. Your dog will also begin to blink rapidly or paw and rub at their eye, trying to relieve the irritation. A scratched cornea is painful and can cause complications if left untreated. It is best to have your dog’s eye checked out by a veterinarian.

Conjunctivitis

Excessive tearing from your dog’s eyes could be a sign of conjunctivitis. Your dog’s eye is protected and lubricated by a part of the eye known as the conjunctiva. It is the pink part of the eye between the eye and the eyelid. It is also present in the corners of the eye. Sometimes the tissue of the conjunctiva will become inflamed from a viral or bacterial infection, causing conjunctivitis. The pink membrane of the inflamed conjunctiva will produce a discharge. This inflammation may also cause a blockage in the tear ducts. Your dog will paw or rub at the eye to relieve the irritation. This condition is straightforward to treat, especially when caught early, so you should see your veterinarian at the first sign of symptoms.small dog with tears

Allergies

Like humans, dogs can suffer from allergies which can cause excessive wateriness in your dog’s eyes. These allergies can come from many irritants, including smoke, pollen, dust, chemicals, scents, or certain foods. You can try to determine what is causing your pet’s allergies by figuring out any recent changes to your dog’s diet or environment. You may need to take a trip to your vet’s office to determine the source of your dog’s allergies. If you can discover the source before the allergy test results, you can remove the allergen from your dog. You will notice that the usual symptoms of allergies reduce or disappear entirely. Other common symptoms that may indicate your dog is suffering from allergies are hives, sneezing, swelling, inflammation, and coughing. 

Entropion

Entropion is a medical condition that causes prolonged watery eyes. It is inherited genetically or may be developed by your dog as a secondary disease. The situation involves your dog’s eyelids rolling inward where the cornea will come into contact with the eyelashes. The continued rubbing of the eyelashes against the cornea causes extreme irritation and watering of the eyes. Entropion can affect the top or the bottom eyelids of your dog’s eye. It can also show up in both eyes at once. This condition happens over time and can also develop into a corneal ulcer.

A positive aspect is that since entropion is genetically inherited, it is more prevalent in certain breeds. Entropion is common in the English bulldog, pug, and boxer. You can prevent entropion before its progression by taking action before the pup is three months old. Correcting entropion involves tacking the puppy’s eyelids, forcing them to grow into a standard shape. If entropion is not caught early enough or develops later in life, your dog must undergo eyelid surgery to correct it.dog at vet

Dust, Dirt, and Hair

Lastly, your dog can develop watery eyes from dirt or dust accumulation. When your dog spends time outside, it is easy for them to get dirt stuck on their eyelashes which will invariably make its way into their eyes. Tears are a biological function that flush out any foreign debris that may come into contact with the eyes. Watery eyes can be a common occurrence and are nothing to worry about in the short term. However, prolonged or excessive watering may be caused by one of the previously mentioned conditions. Any eye complication, especially one that persists, should be taken seriously and examined by a veterinarian to rule out any severe health conditions or medical problems.

Your Dog Isn’t Crying Because They’re Sad

Pay attention to the changes in your dog’s behaviors and facial expressions; they’ll let you know how they feel by these traits. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they have tears because they’re sad. When your dog is upset, they may get into trouble around the house, tear things, howl, and growl, but they won’t ever cry. As you’ve learned, watery eyes are a health issue that may be of concern. These types of health issues aren’t necessarily serious at first. However, if you suddenly notice your dog’s eye health change, keep an eye on it and monitor it throughout the day. Sometimes, these issues will resolve independently, but it’s essential to have your canine checked out at the veterinarian if you don’t notice any improvement.

So, you now know that humans and dogs express their emotions much differently than one another. While you may be able to tell that your friend or family member is sad by seeing their watery eyes, this is not the case for your canine companion. It’s easy to see your dog with watery eyes and automatically assume they are sad or upset. Luckily, their tears aren’t a reflection of their inner emotional state. So, while your dog’s watering eyes may appear to be tears, you now know that he is not “crying” because he is sad.

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