Do Dogs Cry: Dog Tears And What They Mean

This Labrador looks sad, but do dogs cry like people do?

In ‘Do Dogs Cry’ Melinda Story investigate dog emotions and looks at the way our Labs show us how they feel.

If you are a dog owner, then you surely understand that your canine has feelings.

And research increasingly supports the view that dogs experience a range of different emotions.

A study in 2016 showed that dogs are able to recognize these emotions, not only in other dogs, but in humans too.

Fear and anger are some emotions that your dog is likely to feel, and most dogs reach emotional maturity around the time they are four to six months old.

When trying to understand your canine’s emotional range, and when figuring out their overall health needs, you may wonder whether or not your dog feels sadness and cries like a human.

You also may consider whether or not they cry due to medical reasons.

Keep reading and we’ll discover whether dogs feel sad and if they shed real tears.

Do Dogs Feel Sadness?

Unlike humans, dogs become emotionally mature very early and have the emotional range equivalent to a two or two and a half year old human.

If you are familiar with toddlers, then you certainly know that they cry. Like a toddler, dogs feel emotions like fear, general distress, anger, and suspicion.

Do dogs cry real tears - find out on The Labrador Site
We know now that dogs experience a wider range of emotions than previously thought

These emotions are related closely to sadness. However, the more complex emotions of shame and guilt never develop.

So in a way, dogs do not feel sadness quite like humans do.

Despair, remorse, depression, dejection, and misery are a few words that you may use to describe your own sadness. When it comes to your canine, stress, discontentment, and uneasiness are better descriptors.

Do Dogs Cry When Sad?

When a dog is sad, you may see some telltale signs that he is upset.

2017 international dog name surveyAccording to the ASPCA, canines have some very specific types of body language that can tell you exactly how they are feeling.

While body language may not directly indicate happiness or sadness, it can tell you if your dog is relaxed, content, scared, or feeling aggressive.

In the case of uneasiness or stress, your dog will take a submissive posture. Eyes will be partially closed, the ears will be pinned back against the head, and the tail will be moved between the legs. You may also see the mouth closed and the snout angled towards the floor.

It may seem as though your dog is cowering in front of you.

When your dog is in distress, you may notice some vocalizations, like the ones outlined by in this article published on the Whole Dog Journal .
Stress vocalizations include high-pitched barks, whimpering, and yelps.

In some cases, you may even notice your canine companion mimicking human words or sounds. This is a common tactic your dog may use to show affection if you have reinforced this behavior.

While all of these things may be noted, there is one thing you will not see, your dog crying tears.

Can Dogs Cry Tears?

You may want to know, can dogs cry? Yes, dogs can shed tears.

However, they do not cry in the way we understand it, in response to emotion. To understand tears and crying, it may help if we take a little look at how our dog’s eyes are constructed.

Dogs have the same basic eye structures as other mammals. The cornea, lens, conjunctiva, and sclera make up the different tissues within the eye ball, just as they do in our own eyes.

Do dogs have tear ducts? Yes they do, and dogs can make tears to wash out their eyes
Sore eyes can be very uncomfortable and a symptom that something is wrong

The eye sits in the orbit – or eye socket – and is protected by the upper and lower eyelids.

The tissues of your dog’s eye need to be kept moist. The moisture lubricates the tissues, so the eyes can move smoothly in the socket and so the eyelids can glide over the eyes.

We all know how uncomfortable dry eyes can be, and it’s the same for dogs

Fluid also helps with your dog’s vision, as light is reflected off the tears. Moisture also helps to wash away grit and debris that can scratch the sensitive surface of your dog’s eye.

Humans have fairly simple lubrication system that involves the secretion of fluid from glands. They are called lacrimal glands, tear glands to you and me, and each eye has one.

The glands release fluid that is then forced over the surface of the eye with the help of your eyelids.

Do Dog Tears Differ From Humans?

Yes, our dogs tears are different from ours.  Dogs have much more complicated lubrication and eye moisture systems.

First of all, canines have something called a third eyelid. The third eyelid, or nictitating membrane, is a clear structure that moves over the eye. It moistens the cornea while maintaining vision.

Why do dogs cry tears - well, dogs like this French Bulldog are prone to eye problems
Flat faced dogs like this French bulldog are vulnerable to eye problems that cause watering and tears

Dogs also have two distinct types of tear producing glands that feed moisture into the eye.

They include the lacrimal glands, like the ones that humans have, and mucus glands. These glands work together to produce the moisture your dog needs to keep his eyes healthy.

The lacrimal glands create the watery tears, while the mucus glands produce a thicker type of mucus.

When your dog blinks, the two mix together. This creates a thicker type of fluid that takes longer to evaporate and that offers even better protection to the eyes.

Is Your Dog Crying Tears?

Your dog isn’t crying tears of sadness. Dogs do not cry when they are sad.

In fact, humans are the only beings that cry. According to Scientific American, humans even stand out against other primates as the only animals that cry emotional tears.

So, what is going on if you see dog tears? Well, it is likely something medical that requires the assistance of your veterinarian.

In medical terms, the overflow of tears is called epiphora.

Epiphora is a medical condition that can be caused by a specific disease or a congenital disorder. In other words, your dog may be predisposed to watery eyes.

Congenital epiphora conditions are most commonly cause by the turning in of the eyelashes, the folding inward of the eyelids, or the bulging of the eyes themselves.

What do dog tears mean? - Usually, they mean that the puppy has an eye problem and needs to see the vet
A puppy shedding tears needs to see a veterinarian for a check up

Labrador retrievers, cocker spaniels, bulldogs, pugs, and mastiffs are just a few dogs that are prone to these sorts of issues.

A few additional symptoms of congenital epiphora include:

¥ Redness
¥ Crusting or discharge
¥ Eye sores or ulcers
¥ Swelling
¥ Loose or Inflamed skin around the eyelids
¥ Protruding eyeballs

If you think that an eyelid, eyelash, or bulging eye problem may be present, then speak with a veterinarian as soon as possible. Treatments can and should be provided right away so your canine feels as comfortable as possible.

Treatments may be as simple as applying a topical medication daily or as complicated as completing corrective surgery.

What Other Problems Can Cause Tearing?

If symptoms do not point to a congenital issue, then there may be some other sort of medical problem ailing your pet. There are several distinctive medical problems that can cause the eyes to water.

The following conditions may result in tearing:

¥ Foreign matter or debris in the eye
¥ Conjunctiva infections
¥ Sinusitis or acute sinus infections
¥ Allergies
¥ Dog tear duct obstructions
¥ Immune related illnesses

When a medical epiphora condition is diagnosed, your veterinarian may need to use imaging tests to find the problem.

Specifically, x-rays may be needed to find eye abnormalities. Also, imaging and visual examinations may occur with the help of contrast dyes.

In situations where simple tests cannot be used to locate the issue, the animal doctor may order blood tests, MRIs, or CT scans. In cases where a serious issue is suspected, but cannot be positively identified, surgical exploration may be required.

Do dogs cry – a summary

Dog produce tears from their eyes in response to injury or infection. And sometimes in response to inherited problems caused by deformities of the part of their skull which houses their eyes.

Dogs don’t cry tears in response to emotion such as sadness, or fear.

This doesn’t mean that dogs don’t feel emotional. On the contrary, recent research shows that dogs experience and understand a range of emotions. And learning how dogs display emotions through body language can help us understand them

If your dog’s eyes are producing tears, they are likely to be sore and uncomfortable, so do get him checked out by your veterinarian as soon as possible

Can you tell when your dog feels sad? Do you think he understands when you are sad? Let us know in the comments box below



Albuquerque N, Guo K, Wilkinson A, Savalli C, Otta E, Mills D “Dogs recognize dog and human emotions”  The Royal Society 2016

Morris P, Doe C, and Godsell E, “Behavioural reports and subjective claims by animal owners”  Journal of cognition and emotion 2007


  1. I groom and board dogs and all my dogs are rescue dogs, some from appalling backgrounds. Dogs do cry by howling – finishing the howl with a wow, wow, it is the most heart rendering sound to hear. Dogs also suffer from depression particularly if in an abusive situation over a period of time – in this case the dog ‘switches off’ and just goes through the motions of living – this is very similar to a human. This can also occur following major trauma. Some dogs recover from their abusive situations but this takes time, patience, however, if the abuse is so severe, the dog may never recover as the memory may be triggered by sight, sound or smell.

    If you read ‘Elephant Tramp’ by George Lewis – the story of a training routine for Sadie the elephant is told
    ‘Sadie just could not grasp what we were trying to show her. In frustration she attempted to run out of the ring. We brought her back and began to punish her for being so stupid. We stopped suddenly, and looked at each other, unable to speak. Sadie was crying like a human being. She lay there on her side, the tears streaming down her face and sobs racking her huge body.’ …. So yes, other animals do cry !!!