Do dogs cry: the truth behind dog tears revealed

A dog's sad eyes often move us to tears, but can your dog really cry too?

How do dogs show they are sad?
How do dogs show they are sad?  © Hiselius

Are dogs more similar to humans in their social behavior than we thought? Animals have tear glands and tear ducts to keep their eyes healthy.

That means, yes, dogs can technically cry, but are they crying because they are sad?

Just like with humans, dog tears work to protect the surface of the eyes and flush out foreign objects.

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So, when your pup's eyes water, it usually has nothing to do with really big feelings.

Of course, dogs also have emotions: they are full of joy and love of life, or sometimes they are withdrawn and introverted.

When an important caregiver or animal friend is no longer there, dogs can also become very sad, but they express this feeling quite differently.

These are five signs your dog may be sad:

- Barking and howling

- Destroying things for no reason

- Refusing food

- Doing their business indoors

- Aggressive behavior

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A veterinary check-up can rule out any serious medical issues.
A veterinary check-up can rule out any serious medical issues.  ©

Excessively watering eyes are referred to as epiphora in medical jargon. Some breeds, such as Rottweilers, Chow-Chows, retrievers, and mastiffs, suffer more frequently from watering eyes.

In Chihuahuas, the tears don't actually flow through the nose as they normally do with most animals, but rather directly through the eyes.

To rule out the possibility of glaucoma or even a tumor behind the condition, a visit to the vet is advised.

It's best to keep in mind that when dogs "cry," it can have many medical or anatomical causes. Emotions are probably not the reason behind the tears.

Why do dogs have watery eyes?

Eye infections can also make it seem like dogs are crying.
Eye infections can also make it seem like dogs are crying.  © Richey-Schmitz

If the color or consistency of the tears changes, these causes could be behind it:

  • Conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye)
  • Allergies
  • Foreign object in the eye
  • Infection
  • Common cold
  • Blocked tear duct
  • Misalignment of the eyelid

People tend to humanize their pets more and more, as evidenced by statistics of the most popular dog names.

According to, Max, Charlie, and Cooper were the most popular names for boy dogs in 2020, while Bella, Luna, and Lucy were the most popular for girl dogs. "Human names" are topping the list!

It's not surprising that owners also perceive all kinds of human emotions in their beloved four-legged friends.

It has not been scientifically proven that dogs can cry from sadness. There are too few studies on the emotional ups and downs of canines. More likely causes for dog tears are probably anatomical or disease-related.

Cover photo: Collage: Hiselius,

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