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It seems as though this is shaping up to be one of those “good news/bad news” kinds of weeks. On the one hand, in How Long Do Dogs Stay Pregnant?, I have been able to share with you the wonderful, joyous news that in another couple of months, I should have a litter from Janice and Leroy. I’ll be able to continue doing what I love to do: placing good dogs in great homes.
On the other hand, if dogs did cry tears when they’re sad, I’m sure that gallons would be shed over a story I’ve just discovered. I read a lot of online newspapers, and I found this in the February 15 edition of the Toronto Sun. The headline reads: “Man Who Beat Neighbour’s Yorkie to Death Gets Jail Time.” Here’s the story:
CRANSTON, R.I. — A Rhode Island man will serve four months in state prison followed by eight months in home confinement for the beating death of his neighbour’s 10-pound Yorkshire terrier.
Sixty-year-old Nicola Patalano was found guilty of felony malicious injury in November for his role in the 2014 death of Missy.
Prosecutors say Missy’s owner was walking the dog when the Yorkie started barking at Patalano’s terrier, prompting the Cranston man to repeatedly strike the small dog with his wooden cane.
He knocked Missy unconscious, and she became unresponsive. A neighbour who witnessed the incident accompanied Missy’s owner to an animal hospital, where the dog was pronounced dead.
Police say Patalano told officers he “hit the dog to kill it.”
Patalano also was sentenced to community service and assessed fines.
Do dogs cry real tears? We’ll get to that in a moment. I know that I cried very real tears over this story. This irredeemable piece of pond scum beat a little dog to death. By his own admission, he “hit the dog to kill it.” And for what? For barking. For doing what little dogs do.
I don’t know for sure how big Patalano’s dog was, although some accounts seem to put it at about 20 pounds. In any case, I find it hard to imagine any dog that couldn’t get the best of a Yorkie, or that couldn’t just be picked up and carried away since the dogs had not made physical contact. Patalano wasn’t in danger, and neither was his dog.
The police officer who arrested Patalano called it “a deplorable act.” The court called it “felony malicious injury.” I call it murder, plain and simple.
Anyway, that’s what got me wondering if dogs can cry tears: this horrible story. I’m heartbroken over what happened to Missy, but beyond happy that this reprehensible human being (and I use the term “human” in the very loosest sense of the word) is going to jail for what he did. I hope he makes a lot of “friends” there. Big friends. Big, muscular friends. Maybe even big, muscular friends who have beloved dogs waiting for them on the outside.
Okay, enough; if I keep this up, I’m just going to start crying again. Now I’ll get back to doing what I frequently try to do, which is to take something I wondered about and then researched, and turn it into something that enhances the level of knowledge we have when it comes to our dogs.
So, can dogs cry tears?
I think the answer is something along the lines of “Sort of.”
Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows that dogs are capable of all the emotions that humans feel: happiness, sadness, jealousy, anger and so on. As to tears, humans shed tears when they’re feeling unhappy, rejected, or sometimes even when they’re incredibly moved – say by a beautiful piece of music, a poem, or perhaps a gift given by a small child. Or perhaps a kiss from a puppy. Many things move humans to tears. But what about dogs? How do dogs show emotion?
Let’s get this out of the way at the outset: dogs feel emotions, but they do not cry tears of emotion. If your dog is sad, he is likely to express it by whimpering (which I suppose could be considered to be crying of a sort), lowering his ears, or becoming listless. If any of these behaviors are accompanied by what looks like “tears,” it’s a coincidence.
That’s not to say that your dog’s eyes won’t water, though. Dogs do have tear ducts, but they’re not tied to their emotions. Pretty much all mammals need tear ducts in order to deliver moisture to their eyes. With dogs, the tear ducts drain moisture into the throat, and to the mouth, as well. If the tear ducts become blocked, then the tears will flow out of the dog’s eyes and down his cheeks. It doesn’t mean that he’s sad; it means that the tears need somewhere to go, so out the eyes and down the cheeks it is!
Your dog will cry tears if his tear ducts are blocked in such a way that the tears cannot drain otherwise. This is more likely with some breeds than with others; brachycephalic dogs, for instance, are far more prone to the condition than dogs with faces that are less “smushy.”
Epiphora is not usually anything to worry about. Often, it’s caused by the same things that might result in a human having watery eyes. For instance, your dog could have inflamed sinuses, or there could be something stuck in his nose. It’s also possible that your dog might not have a good enough connection between his eyelids and his tear ducts. Bulldogs, Poodles and various Spaniels often develop this condition.
Another condition, etropion, can actually lead to epiphora. Etropion is a condition where the dog’s eyelid turns outward. It can be present from birth, or could be caused by trauma to the eyelid or nerve paralysis. Spaniels are again prone to this condition, as are Great Danes and bloodhounds.
Most of the time, etropion and epiphora are no big deal. You really only need to be concerned if it looks like your dog never stops crying tears. Then you should suspect a blockage, and should take your dog to the vet.
In Do Dogs Have Boogers?, I talked about eye discharge. Some dogs aren’t just teary, they’re “boogery.” Neila, my friend who breeds Rottweilers, tells me that her Dallas often looks so boogery, it’s as if he has oysters hanging out of his eyes! This isn’t really anything to worry about. Some dogs just “booger up.” However, if you notice any colored or bloody discharge from your dog’s eyes, that’s cause for concern.
As I’ve just stated, anything discolored could be cause for concern. If the eye discharge is smelly, that’s another indication that a trip to the vet is in order, because the smell could indicate an infection. Most of the time, if it just looks like your dog is crying tears, that’s not a biggie, unless it’s copious and constant. Then, you could be dealing with glaucoma or a fractured facial bone. It might also mean nothing much at all, but please don’t take chances with your best buddy’s health.
Some breeds are very prone to staining under the eyes: Poodles, for instance, are very prone to this condition. Most of the time, these stains are nothing much more than unsightly, and you can wipe them away. If it happens suddenly, though, and doesn’t go away in a day or too, take your dog to the vet in order to rule out any underlying condition that could be serious.
Sometimes, epiphora can be the result of a food allergy, so you might want to take a look at your dog’s food. My Janice and Leroy do very well on store brands, which do contain wheat, corn and soy, but some dogs don’t tolerate these ingredients all that well. If you suspect that your dog seems to be crying tears due to a food allergy or intolerance, try switching to a grain-free dog food.
Think about what your dog is drinking, too. I’m very fortunate in that I have a drilled well, and I’m not dependent on the town water supply. We all know that, generally speaking, chlorine makes for clean water, and fluoride is good for preventing cavities. However, not all dogs tolerate “treated” water that well. If you suspect that your water could be causing your dog to look as though he’s crying tears, you might want to consider giving him bottled water.
Sometimes, a bit of grooming can also work to alleviate the problem. You can use eye wash, or even a bit of peroxide gently applied to the streaks (but avoiding the eye itself, of course) to get rid of the staining. And if you have a dog with a lot of hair growth in the eye area, keeping it trimmed back will help. You can also simply wipe with a dampened washcloth.
If your dog’s tear ducts are seriously blocked, then you probably really will end up wondering if dogs can cry tears. Really serious cases will require a trip to the vet, who will sedate your dog and use special instruments to open up the tear ducts.
Dogs do not cry tears in the way that we ordinarily think of “crying.” Although dogs most certainly can feel sadness, they do not express that emotion by shedding tears. So if your dog comes over to you and seems to be crying, don’t think that you’ve done something horrible that has broken his heart; you can give yourself a pass on this. It’s more likely that he just has a bit of epiphora, and most of the time you can correct this at home. In more severe cases, you might need veterinary intervention, but usually, things will even out in the fullness of time.
Shedding tears out of sadness is a human thing. Your dog will show his emotions in other ways.
That said, I hope that you will hold your dog close to your heart every day. Love him the way he is meant to be loved. And since your dog can’t do it, take a bit of time to shed a few tears for Misty. She didn’t deserve what happened to her. Our tears won’t bring her back, but she should be remembered and honored. And from where I’m sitting, that requires tears on the part of all right-thinking humans.