Can Dogs Cry? What Do Their Tears Mean?

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: August 31, 2023
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Sometimes, knowing what is on your dog’s mind can be difficult. Canine communication can get even more confusing when it seems like you know what your dog is trying to say through human terms, only to find out later that it means something entirely different in dog terms. Crying is one example of this.

So, can dogs cry? Keep reading here to find out the answer to this, as well as many more canine communication questions about tears!

Do Dogs Cry?

In an emotional sense, dogs don’t cry. For humans, we can cry out of joy or sadness or even from just being overwhelmed. However, dogs don’t.

This isn’t to say they don’t have tears, however. While they may not cry in the way we do, dogs actually have tear ducts. Instead of welling up and then spilling where we can see them, however, their tears gather in their eyes and then are released through a tube leading out the nose.

As a result, when dogs do cry, it’s usually the result of a complication with their eyes. Blockages in the tear ducts can lead to tears spilling from the eye in a way that resembles crying.

It’s also important to remember that this is just what science says as of now, and science is always changing. In fact, there have been recorded instances where dogs have appeared to cry out of joy! You can get rid of tear stains on your dog’s eyes by reading clicking here.

Any concerns about your dog’s eyes and tears should always be addressed with your veterinarian. This helps ensure that there is nothing wrong with your dog’s eyes that could be causing the crying. 

tearful dog

Dogs usually cry because of complications in their eyes.


Other Forms of Canine Communication

Just because dogs don’t use tears to communicate doesn’t mean they don’t have a way to express their emotions. In fact, their language can be just as diverse and meaningful as our own — all without words!

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

Dogs can make an extensive range of sounds. They have yips and barks to show excitement and alertness. They can growl to warn away danger. And, although they can’t show sadness through tears, they can express their sorrow through whining. Different dogs will communicate vocally in different ways. Some breeds even are more prone to vocalizing than others.

There is also body language. While you may not realize it, you actually communicate with your dog through body language. For instance, if you notice a dog snarling with its ears back, you’ll know what it is trying to say without any words or sounds. The same goes for a dog with its tail between its legs. Different postures and actions can be a key to understanding how dogs communicate with us.

While sounds and body language are the two most common ways that dogs interact with humans, dogs have a variety of other ways to communicate with each other — no tears involved! One method of canine communication includes smells. A single sniff can help your dog understand the health and status of another dog. 

Do Any Animals Cry?

Almost every single animal cried vocally as an infant. In the same way, almost all animals produce tears as a way to lubricate and clean their eyes. However, when it comes to shedding physical tears as a method of expressing an emotion, crying is quite rare in the animal world.

Humans are really the only animal in the world that cries the way we do. However, this isn’t to say that animals aren’t capable of emotions, including sadness. Other animals just have a different way of expressing their sadness than humans do. 

When your dog is sad, it’ll be withdrawn. They may not be as eager to play or run around, and if they’re especially sad, they may whine or let out crying sounds. In extreme cases, some sad dogs will even refuse to eat. Other animals, such as cats, often act in these ways when they’re sad. 

Oftentimes, elephants may appear like they are crying. However, this is just because they lack the tube that other mammals, like dogs, have. This means that the tears they produce for cleaning purposes have nowhere to go but spilling down their face.

Although they don’t cry the same way humans do, elephants possess a similar mourning pattern to humans. They’ve even been recorded visiting the final resting places of family members, where entire herds of elephants will mourn for those they have lost.

African elephant at watering hole

Elephants lack drainage canals, so they appear like they are crying.


The photo featured at the top of this post is © Denys Teternyk /

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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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