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You’ve undoubtedly heard the sounds of a dog crying: whimpering, whining, moaning or howling. Some dogs are quite talented vocalists when they want to make their feelings known. But can dogs cry tears when they are feeling emotionally distressed like humans do?
When it comes to producing tears as an emotional response, humans are a unique species. There isn’t any scientific evidence that dogs, or any other animals, produce tears as a response to sad or emotional feelings. So if you’re wondering if dogs can cry tears of sadness like humans do, the quick answer is no.
Do dogs produce tears?
Though they may not cry emotional tears, you may sometimes notice excess tear production from your dog’s eyes. Dogs certainly have tear ducts, as anyone with a white dog like a Maltese or a Westie can attest (learn more about tear stains here). The tears that dogs produce are for reasons unrelated to emotions, and there are two different types of tears.
The first type is basal tears which are slowly and constantly released to help keep the eyes moist. These are perfectly normal—I’m sure we all can agree that the feeling of dry eyes is not pleasant at all. The second type of tears are reflexive tears, which flow more quickly and occur as a response to irritants and allergens. Here are some specific reasons that could be the cause of reflexive tears.
- Allergic reaction: Some dogs are especially impacted by seasonal allergies with triggers like pollen, certain food ingredients, or other irritants. One symptom of an allergic reaction is watery eyes.
- Blocked tear duct: Often the cause of tear stains on white fur, a blocked duct can have many causes, including dirt, an injury, or genetics. A blocked tear duct can also lead to infection; be sure to have your vet assess the severity of your dog’s case.
- Eye infection: If the excess moisture coming from your dog’s eye is yellow or bloody, it could be a sign of an infection. Other symptoms include red or swollen eyes. Contact your vet as soon as possible.
- Dirt or dust in the eye: As you’ve probably experienced before, getting something in your eye can cause a feeling of irritation and lead to extra tear production, which is the body’s attempt to flush the irritant from the eye.
- Scratched cornea: Also known as a corneal ulcer, a scratched cornea is most commonly caused by an injury and is quite painful. In addition to eye-watering, your dog may paw at the eye or rub it on the carpet in an attempt to relieve the pain. If you suspect a scratched cornea, be sure to seek immediate veterinary treatment.
Can dogs recognize when we cry?
On the flip side, how does your dog feel when a member of his family is crying? Many pet parents report that their dog tends to get closer and make efforts to comfort them when they are sad. As it turns out, it’s not just anecdotal. Research supports the notion that dogs may be hardwired to respond to our crying. “University of London researchers found that dogs were more likely to approach a crying person than someone who was humming or talking, and that they normally responded to weeping with submissive behaviors,” says Live Science.