A-z - Animals

Do dogs cry? What do their tears mean?

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Sometimes, it can be hard to know what your dog is thinking. Canine communication can get even more confusing when you seem to know what your dog is trying to express in human terms, only to later discover that it means something completely different in dog terms. Crying is one example.

So, do dogs cry? Keep reading here to find out the answer and more canine communication questions about tears!

Do dogs cry?

tearful dog
Dogs often cry with eye complications.


Emotionally, dogs don't cry. As humans, we can cry out of joy or sadness, or even out of overwhelm. Dogs, however, do not.

However, that's not to say they didn't have tears. While they may not cry like we do, dogs actually have tear ducts. However, instead of welling up and spilling them where we can see them, their tears collect in their eyes and are released through a tube leading to their nose.

So when a dog cries, it's usually the result of a complication in the eye. A blocked tear duct can cause tears to escape from the eye in a manner similar to crying.

It's also important to remember that this is exactly what the science currently says, and the science is changing all the time. In fact, there are documented instances where dogs seem to cry out of joy! You can read about removing tear stains from dog eyes by clicking here.

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Any concerns about your dog's eyes and tears should be addressed with your veterinarian. This helps ensure that your dog's eyes do not have any problems that could be causing the crying.

Other Forms of Canine Communication

Just because dogs don't use tears to communicate doesn't mean they don't have a way of expressing emotions. In fact, their language can be as varied and meaningful as our own — without words at all!

Dogs communicate in two main ways: through voice and through body language.

Dogs can make a wide range of sounds. They bark to indicate excitement and alertness. They can growl to warn away from danger. And, while they can't express their sadness through tears, they can express their sadness through whining. Different dogs communicate vocally in different ways. Some breeds are even more vocal than others.

And body language. Although you may not realize it, you actually communicate with your dog through body language. For example, if you notice a dog growling with its ears thrown back, you'll know what it's trying to say without words or sounds. The same goes for dogs with their tails tucked between their legs. Different postures and movements may hold the key to understanding how dogs communicate with us.

While voice and body language are two of the most common ways dogs interact with humans, there are a variety of other ways dogs can communicate with each other—without crying! One method of canine communication involves scent. A single sniff can help your dog learn about another dog's health and condition.

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Do any animals cry?

African elephant at watering hole
Elephants don't have drains, so they look like they're crying.

© iStock.com/fotografie-kuhlmann

Almost every animal cries loudly as a baby. Likewise, almost all animals produce tears to lubricate and clean their eyes. However, when it comes to shedding tears as a way of expressing emotion, crying is very rare in the animal world.

Humans are really the only animals in the world that cry like we do. However, that's not to say animals don't have emotions, including sadness. Other animals express grief differently than humans.

When your dog is upset, he will withdraw. They may be less eager to play or run around, and, if they're particularly upset, they may whine or cry. In extreme cases, some grieving dogs may even refuse to eat. Other animals often behave in these ways when they are sad, such as cats.

Often, an elephant may appear to be crying. However, this is only because they lack the tubes that other mammals such as dogs have. This means that the tears they produce for cleaning purposes have nowhere to go but run down their face.

Although they don't cry like humans, elephants actually have similar mourning patterns to humans. They've even been recorded visiting the family's final resting place, where entire herds mourn the loss.


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about the author

megan martin

I'm a writer with almost five years of experience. I recently graduated from Wingate University with a BA in English Literature and a double minor in Biology and Professional Technical Writing. I love everything to do with animals and nature! The American kestrel is my favorite animal, but I also love sharks and alligators. In my free time, I enjoy watching documentaries and exploring nature.

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