More and more evidence is being found every day that shows that dogs understand what we’re saying and experience emotions. While this doesn’t make them human, it does lead to questions about other canine functions. For instance, can dogs cry emotional tears?
There have been videos surfacing in recent years of dogs “crying” tears of joy and sadness. These videos certainly make for emotional journalism and help humans empathize with animals, but is it scientifically correct to assume that these tears are linked to dogs’ emotions? PupJournal decided to find out.
The above video went viral based on the notion that a mother dog reuniting with her pups was so happy that she cried. We have no doubt that she probably had an emotional experience, but humans are the only mammals attributed to releasing emotion through tears.
When dogs show excitement, happiness, pain, or sadness, they use their vocal chords to whimper and bark instead. This is more what a sad dog sounds like:
According to VCA Animal Hospital, what a crying dog is likely experiencing is epiphora. Similar to humans and other animals, tears are naturally produced in response to blockage or debris in the eye.
Dogs can also experience this “overflow” of tears due to infection, conjunctivitus, allergies, eye injuries, abnormal lashes, corneal ulcers, anatomical abnormalities, and/or glaucoma.
For instance, if you look closely at the dog crying tears in this video, you might notice the milky pupils that probably indicate an eye abnormality.
Scientists still may not be able to fully understand if a dog’s emotions are linked to tears, but current evidence shows that there is generally a medical condition responsible for dogs’ tears.
Why does this matter, you may ask? Anthropomorphizing our pets can lead to issues like misunderstanding dogs’ behavioral problems or waiting longer than we should to get them medical attention.
If a dog is crying and we relate it to emotional causes, we might be overlooking some serious issues that are causing them discomfort or pain.
It doesn’t mean we love our dogs any less because we see them as animals and not humans. If anything, it shows we love them even more because we are working to understand them better.
Do you think animals can cry, or do you have a dog that you believe cries emotional tears? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Header images: Noel Zia Lee via Flickr (left) & Matt Deavenport via Flickr (right)