Have you ever noticed tears coming from your dog’s eyes? You, like many other dog owners are asking the same questions: have I upset my dog? Why is my dog crying? And is it even possible for a canine to cry?
It is true that dogs show a great level of emotion, but sadness-induced tears is not one of them. If a dog is sad, he may whimper or whine instead of shedding tears like we do. If a dog is scared, he may hide. Or, he might “smile” when he is happy.
So if my dog is not crying because he is sad, why is he crying?
Dog’s cannot cry in the same way humans do, if you see your dog has liquid coming from his eyes it means something is wrong health-wise.
Like all creatures, your dog has tear ducts at the corner of his eyes which keep the eye from drying out. When functioning properly, these ducts take the excess liquid from the eyes and drain it into the nose or throat.
However, if the tear duct becomes compromised by a blockage, the excesses liquid begins to drain from the eyes in the appearance of tears.
This demonstrated “crying” is actually a condition known as an epiphora.
An epiphora, itself, is not a disease, but it is a sign that there is an issue with your dog’s eye and should be handled by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
As an owner, you can spot an epiphora in your dog easily. The hair around your dog’s eye will be damp and may turn brown in white haired dogs.
Facial skin may become irritated and turn red if the epiphora has occurred for a long period of time.
Epiphoras can be caused by more than just a tear duct blockage.
Glaucoma, allergies, irregular eyelashes, conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers can all be the underlying problem behind your dog’s crying.
Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a medical condition which places pressure on the eye, causing excessive tear production. Left untreated, glaucoma can cause a dog to lose his eyesight. Dog owners can spot glaucoma easily because the eye will change to a cloudy, gray/blue color. If detected early, the veterinarian can perform a procedure called a cyclocryotherapy, which removes the pressure causing fluid from the eye. However, glaucoma that has gone unnoticed will require complete removal of the eye.
Allergies: Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system causing eyes to water, itch and become red. A dog can develop eye allergies from pollen in the air, dust, mold or air pollutants. Your dog can be relieved of allergies to the eyes through use of an antihistamine, eye drops and removing the allergens from the canine’s space.
Eyelash Disorders: Ectopic cilia, distichiasis, and trichiasis are eyelash disorders that can cause your dog to cry. Ectopic Cilia is when eyelashes grow from the inside of the eyelid. Distichiasis is an eyelash that grows in an irregular spot around the eye. Trichiasis is when the eyelashes grow inward, toward the eye.
All three eyelash disorders cause extreme eye irritation and damage to the eye if left untreated. Eyelash disorders are usually treated by plucking the unruly hair.
Conjunctivitis: Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pinkeye, is a term used when the conjunctiva, a moist membrane coating the eyelids, becomes inflamed and itchy. A dog with conjunctivitis will paw at his eyes, squint and have difficulties seeing due to the eyelashes sticking together.
The dog’s eyelids may become puffy, red and have a stringy/watery discharge. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, drugs, perfumes, dander, mold, pollen and dust mites. Your veterinarian may treat this condition with steroidal eye drops, antihistamines, artificial tears, cold compresses, or antibiotics.
Corneal Ulcers: A corneal ulcer is a deep erosion of the three layers which make up the cornea, the clear portion of the front of the eyeball. Corneal ulcers are caused by blunt trauma, such as a claw scratch or rubbing his eyes on the carpet on your home. This condition is very painful for your dog and you may find him rubbing the affected eye continuously to relieve the pain. Your veterinarian may decide to treat the ulcer with medicated drops or surgically, depending on the severity of the condition.
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to developing an epiphora than others. Brachycephalic breeds, like the Shih Tzu, Bulldog, or Pug, have short faces which causes the eyes to leak more liquid. In the brachycephalic dog’s case, this type of epiphora is mild and is not usually a serious condition.
Manage your dog’s tears at home with these simple steps:
- Apply a warm, damp washcloth to the outside of the eyes.
- Wipe around the eye gently, avoiding the eyelashes.
- Speak gently to your dog to keep him calm.
- Finish with a tasty treat reward.
In some cases, the veterinarian may need to flush out the dog’s tear duct if the condition does not improve.
The process is rather simple, requiring the dog to be sedated just long enough for the veterinarian to flush out the eye. Most of the time, this procedure is enough to get the tear duct working again.
However, if the epiphora does not get better your veterinarian may look for other surgical options to correct the issue.
If you find you dog shedding a tear, don’t reach for the tissues!
A crying dog, is a dog in need of veterinary attention. Glaucoma, allergies, eyelashes, conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers can all be lurking behind your dog’s crying eyes.
Pick up the phone and contact your local veterinarian to find out what is making your dog tear up.