Grief and Tears: Can Dogs Cry?

Some dog owners are convinced that they have seen tears on their sad four-legged friend. Others simply consider this to be humanization. It’s a tightrope walk – what emotional expressions dogs are capable of and what borders on wishful thinking. The subject of “crying” has not been scientifically researched and perhaps that is precisely why it is extremely exciting. This article explores the interesting question: “Can dogs cry?”

Do Dogs Have Tear Glands?

First, the topic is considered from a biological point of view. Are the conditions for a crying dog met?

Just like us humans, dogs have tear glands. These produce a tear film that covers the surface of the eye like a kind of protective film. The tear fluid helps flush foreign bodies out of the eye and evenly moisturizes the cornea.

Can Dogs Cry Out of Grief?

Dogs don’t cry for emotional reasons – at least there’s no solid evidence to support it. This does not mean that they are not grieving. The loyal four-legged friends who have been with us humans for thousands of years are of course capable of feelings such as sadness, happiness, and love.
They deal with a sad phase, such as the loss of a canine buddy, much like us humans. With the one exception that they don’t shed emotional tears. Signs that the dog is in a period of grief can be the following:

  • Refusal to feed;
  • Restlessness and nervous “searching” for the missing conspecific or human;
  • Indifference;
  • Crooked gait;
  • Lack of motivation to go for walks and games.

Can Dogs Cry? Causes of Tear Production

If the function of a dog’s eye is disturbed, it can happen that a dog “cries” more often. Epiphora – this is how veterinarians refer to excessively watery eyes in dogs. There are a number of causes that cause increased tear production in dogs:

  • Foreign bodies in the eyes;
  • Bacteria, fungi, or viruses;
  • Drafts, air conditioning;
  • Cold;
  • Allergic reaction;
  • Lid malpositions (e.g. ectropion or entropion);
  • Infectious diseases;
  • Green Star;
  • Eye sockets that are too shallow.

If in doubt, it is always advisable to go to the vet. Especially if the discharge is not watery but slimy and takes on a different color. No time should be lost if the fur nose pinches the eye more often and visibly suffers from the watery eyes.

Important: Prescription eye drops that are leftover from a previous treatment should not be used independently on the dog. On the one hand, the use-by date of eye drops is usually very short and, on the other hand, the application requires a test for possible damage to the retina beforehand.

Red-brown tears in the dog

Many small breeds of dogs are prone to Epiphora due to anatomical conditions. With Maltese, Chihuahuas, and Co., the tears cannot flow through the usual tear duct and finally through the nose. In the case of red-brown tears, the liquid runs over the edge of the lid. There it reacts to bacteria and yeast that are on the fur near the eye. The result of this reaction: The fur under the edge of the eyelid turns red-brown. The tear stains are particularly noticeable in dogs with white fur.
But other causes are also possible. Therefore, in case of doubt, it makes sense to clarify with the veterinarian.

Can Dogs Cry? Conclusion

Dogs have lacrimal glands and consequently lose tears over the course of their lives. Some dogs more, others less, because in a healthy eye the tears run down the nose and eventually evaporate there. The question of whether dogs cry for emotional reasons has not been scientifically proven. Most scientists assume that only humans are able to shed emotional tears. But that is also controversial and the emotional world of dogs and their forms of expression will remain a phenomenon for a long time to be explored further.

Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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