Can Dogs Cry Tears When Sad?

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
A dog is usually very honest about its feelings and it’s pretty easy to guess if your dog is happy, playful or tired. But what about sadness? How do dogs show that they’re sad?

Dogs are known to be sympathetic creatures and can be a true emotional support to their owner. They are good at picking up our emotions and reacting accordingly to the situation. When you’re happy your dog senses it and happily wag its tail.

On the other hand, when we are sad and cry dogs can sense it and they adapt their behavior accordingly.

Tears, for us humans, are usually indicators of strong emotions, such as sadness and grief.

Because of the understanding they are showing us it is normal that we ask ourselves:

Is It Possible For Dogs To Cry Like We Do?

Dogs and their owners usually form a strong bond. When the owner is happy their dog shows excitement and when the owner shows signs of sadness the dog feels bad.

There are a lot of sad stories indicating that dogs can suffer tremendously, for example when their owner dies or leaves.

A lot of dog owners are also witnesses to their dogs “crying” from time to time. Check out this video and see for yourself:

However, are they crying because of emotional pain?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. Yes – dogs have the capability to cry and produce tears. No – these ‘‘tears’’ are not linked to emotions.
Therefore, humans are the only beings who cry due to sadness, happiness or other emotions.

Does this mean that dogs don’t express sadness?

It is wrong to conclude that dogs don’t express sadness. They can indeed pout, mope and whine when something isn’t how they imagined it or when they are left alone somewhere. This is their way of showing sadness and unhappiness, not by producing tears.

To answer the question: dogs do express sadness, just not in the same way as humans do!

Why Are Dogs Crying?

As we mentioned before, many dog owners has seen fluid coming out of its dogs eyes. The first assumption will probably be that your pet is crying.

However, according to VCA Animal Hospital dogs don’t cry in the way humans do and the reason for the tears should be found elsewhere. They are not a result of an emotional reaction.

So, if their tears are not linked with emotions, why are dogs ‘‘crying’’?

In order to answer this question, it is important to understand that all beings with eyes have tear ducts of some sort. Tear ducts have a critical role as fluid keeps the eye functioning. When it comes to dogs, their tear ducts drain the liquid into their nose and throat.

What happens if the tear duct gets blocked in some way? The liquid begins to flow out of the eyes in form of tears and this may be the reason why your best friend is crying.

What do you do if you notice that this is happening to your dog?

If you notice that this is happening to your pet, you should take these ‘‘tears’’ as a sign that you should take your dog to the veterinarian. This imbalance in the eye ducts is known as epiphora.

What Is Epiphora?

Epiphora is not a condition or disease, but a sign that something is wrong with your dog’s eye. Epiphora is rather easy to notice – the area around your dog’s eye is damp because of the fluid leaking out of the eye. If this goes on for a longer period of time the result may be skin irritation in the eye area.

So, what causes epiphora?

The causes are numerous, which is why it is important to see your vet and get the official answer. Some of the reasons may be conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, allergies, abnormal eyelashes and glaucoma. These are all reasons for problems with tear ducts, resulting in fluid leaking from the eye or ‘‘tears’’ as we like to call them.

Can epiphora affect all breeds?

Some breeds, such as pitbulls and pugs, run a higher risk of getting epiphora. It depends on the anatomy of the dog’s face, which is why dogs with flat faces experience more leakage than others. This happens especially because of the hair around the eyes that can get in the way.

If you notice that your dog has watery eyes, it’s normal that you ask yourself:

Should I be worried?

In most cases epiphora is not a big deal and isn’t something that you should be worried about. However, in some cases you should consult your veterinarian in order to be on the safe side.

Let’s take a closer look on some of the possible scenarios that could cause epiphora!

If your dog’s eyes never stop tearing up it is probably a sign that the tear ducts don’t function as they should. They are probably blocked and should be unblocked by a veterinarian.

Another problem to look out for are signs of a colored discharge in your dog’s eyes. Bloody, yellow or viscous discharge could be dangerous and should be discussed about with your vet.

If your dog’s eye doesn’t stop leaking for more than a day, you should definitely pay your veterinarian a visit. This could be a sign of issues such as glaucoma. It could also be an indicator of a fractured, or in worse cases, broken facial bone.

There also some minor issues that could be the reason for teary eyes, such as dirt in the eye. It could also be a sign of an allergic reaction.

Dogs, just like humans, can be allergic to pollen, cotton or other materials. If you recently used a new soap or a new product in your house, it could be the cause of your pet’s tears.

How Should Epiphora Be Treated?

Naturally, once you’ve realized that your dog is crying you ask yourself:

How do I stop the crying?

First of all, you have to find out why he or she is crying. Is it an allergic reaction? Is something bothering its eyes?

If it’s none of the above, take your dog to a professional and run some tests. Your vet can prescribe the needed medicine, unblock the tear ducts by flushing or perform a surgery.

Medicine can be temporary, for example taking antibiotics for a couple of days to treat a minor infection, but it can also be suggested for a longer period of time, due to a serious infection or another condition.

Treatment will of course depend on which problem is causing the liquid flow. In some cases, in order to re-open the tear ducts an intervention by the vet will be necessary. This is usually done by flushing the eyes with a special instrument. In most cases this is enough, but in some cases surgery may be needed.

The bottom line is – don’t worry! Epiphora isn’t that serious and can be treated once you’ve realized what the cause is.

Epiphora And Tear Staining

Over time, crying can lead to tear staining under the eyes. This condition is not dangerous for your dog, but it can be a cosmetic problem.

Tear stains are often related to epiphora. This is a common effect of epiphora. All breeds can be affected from tear staining, although this condition is most frequent among breed with white coats, for example bichon frises or poodles.

The most obvious sign of tear stains are red-brown streaks that appear under the eyes. It can develop over time because of various conditions from mild epiphora. However, if you discover that your dog is developing a tear-stained face very rapidly it is vital that you take him or her to the vet as soon as possible. This could be an indicator or something serious.

Take a close look on how to prevent dog stains here!

What do you do with your dog’s tear stained face?

Fortunately, there are several ways in solving this problem and your dog doesn’t have to live with this condition.

If the epiphora is caused by some allergy, you may want to take a closer look on the food your dog is eating. It the dog food is filled with some fillers that could be disagreeable to some dogs, for example corn or wheat, you should consider switching to a more natural food brand.

Another thing you should take under consideration is the water your dog is drinking. Although the water isn’t the cause of epiphora, a mix of this condition and poor water quality could make the tear-staining worse. Using purified or distilled water, instead of tap water, could be a better solution.

In order to reduce the stains you could apply some daily grooming habits. Eye wash, shampoo or hydrogen peroxide that is applied to the fur can make the tear-stains disappear gradually. When you apply these substances you should be very careful, as you’re working near your dog’s eyes.

Keeping the fur around the eyes neat and trimmed is also an important factor on the way towards tear-stain removing. If hair or another object gets stuck in your dog’s eye it could cause epiphora, and as a result tear staining. Therefore, if you keep the hair around the eyes trimmed you will lower the chances of hair or other objects that get attached to the fur getting stuck in your dog’s eye.

All of these steps won’t make the problem go away completely; they will just mask it to a point. The only way to completely remove the stain is by grooming, once the affected area grows back out.

Are Tears Indicating Pain?

Noticing tears in your dog’s eyes, even though you’re aware that they’re not a sign of sadness, isn’t a nice feeling. You may ask yourself:

Are tears a sign of pain?

Fortunately, dog tears are not connected to pain. When it comes to showing pain, dogs are more vocal. Instead of shedding tears, dogs may whine or whimper if they feel pain or discomfort. Therefore, your dog crying isn’t an indicator of pain.

You may also ask yourself whether or not you should dry your dog’s tears.

As a result of their crying, dogs may have a bit of film around their eye socket. You may wipe it off with a wet washcloth; just keep it far away from its eyes. Your dog will probably protest at first, but with time he or she will be sit a little more still the next time.


Although our dogs are very sensitive and pick up on our feelings easily, it is important to understand that they don’t express them the same way we do.
Yes, they can cry and produce the tears, but these tears shouldn’t be taken as an indicator of sadness or other emotional distress.

Tears are a sign that something is wrong with your dog’s eye and that you should try to find out what it is. Once you’ve realized what is causing your best friends tears, you will most probably successfully deal with epiphora and your dog will stop crying in no time.

It’s interesting that the question whether or not dogs can cry is often asked.

Why do we want to know if dogs can cry?

Is it because we’re concerned about their health or because we want to have an insight in their emotions? It seems that most of us dog owners want to know if dogs feel sadness the same way we do.

Even though many videos and stories are showing dogs crying of sadness, these are not tears of emotion. However, this doesn’t mean that dogs can’t show sadness or other emotions, they are just doing it differently!

Hope you found this article helpful. If so, feel free to spread the word!