Tell The Tale On Dog Tears

Riverbank News - - PERSPECTIVE - Dier­dra McEl­roy

DEAR DIDI: Why don’t dogs shed tears when they cry? – Man­teca Dog Lover DEAR DOG

LOVER: This ques­tion may seem sim­plis­tic at first, but it is ac­tu­ally one of the most in­trigu­ing and com­pli­cated ques­tions I have ever re­ceived. Hu­mans are fas­ci­nated by any­thing that is dif­fer­ent in our world, es­pe­cially if it doesn’t fit a nor­mal pat­tern. We in­stantly are cu­ri­ous and driven to find out why that thing or an­i­mal is dif­fer­ent. Ul­ti­mately, find­ing the an­swer to those ques­tions usu­ally leads back to us, in our never end­ing quest to un­der­stand the hu­man species bet­ter.

Ca­nine eyes do pro­duce tears. Like any land an­i­mal, their eyes pro­duce lu­bri­ca­tion to clear de­bris, ir­ri­tants or sim­ply re­hy­drate the eye­ball and sur­round­ing tis­sues. Ex­ces­sively wa­tery eyes or tears that are thick with mu­cus should be looked at by a vet­eri­nar­ian. Your dog may have an ear in­fec­tion, a for­eign ob­ject in the eye, al­ler­gies or sim­ply over dry eyes. Th­ese would be phys­i­o­log­i­cal causes for tears to roll from your dog’s eyes.

Hon­estly, the more in­ter­est­ing ques­tion is, “Why do hu­mans cry tears for emo­tional rea­sons?”

We are the only species on the planet that does! So that makes US the dif­fer­ent that isn’t fit­ting a nor­mal pat­tern of be­hav­ior. Yet, we won­der why our beloved ca­nine com­pan­ions don’t shed tears when they cry. Lots of stud­ies have been con­ducted over the decades and many opin­ions have been of­fered through­out time with re­gard to our emo­tional flow from the eyes. Un­for­tu­nately, it is still one of science’s un­solved mys­ter­ies. There are some be­liefs that peo­ple still cling to stead­fastly, such as, cry­ing re­leases stress hor­mones but noth­ing in science truly sup­ports that idea.

Pup­pies are born with their eyes closed so tears aren’t as nec­es­sary. Pup­pies are fre­quently out of their mother’s sight also. In­stead, whim­pers seem to get their mom’s at­ten­tion quite rapidly and sig­nal when a pup is in dis­tress. Hu­man ba­bies also vo­cal­ize to get at­ten­tion. The in­ten­sity and pitch of those vo­cal­iza­tions typ­i­cally re­lay the sever­ity and ur­gency of the dis­tress call.

One must be look­ing at the in­di­vid­ual that is cry­ing to re­al­ize they are hurt­ing whereas whim­pers, sobs, and other sounds can be heard even from an­other room. We are the unique and dif­fer­ent species in this case be­cause we shed phys­i­cal tears for purely emo­tional rea­sons some­times. Although science is quite fas­ci­nated with those hu­mans that never cry. Why is it that some of us cry eas­ily out of frus­tra­tion while oth­ers of us never cry even if their en­tire world is crum­bling?

Then I found a Dan­ish study show­ing that emo­tional tears have a slightly higher pro­tein con­tent than lu­bri­cat­ing tears. The sci­en­tists hy­poth­e­sized that lu­bri­cat­ing tears roll faster and there­fore clear dust from the eye more ef­fi­ciently. Emo­tional tears with their higher pro­tein are stick­ier and there­fore roll more slowly down the face. Per­haps this would give other hu­mans time to no­tice the dis­tress sig­nal and re­spond to it? Either way, most of the sci­en­tists can agree that cry­ing emo­tional tears is a uniquely hu­man event and is very im­por­tant in mak­ing mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with oth­ers of our species.

Dier­dra McEl­roy is a grad­u­ate of Texas A&M Univer­sity and is an An­i­mal Be­hav­ior­ist spe­cial­iz­ing in ca­nines. If you have ques­tions or con­cerns about the pets in your house, you can get them an­swered through a fu­ture col­umn of Didi’s Dogs. For a free con­sul­ta­tion with Dier­dra or to ask your dog be­hav­ior ques­tion, email www.Cal­i­for­ni­aCa­nineUn­

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