What Does Whale Eye Dog Mean?

Whale Eye in Dogs: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

“Whale eye dog” is a form of canine body language that typically expresses stress and anxiety. The term “whale eye dog” refers to when you can see the sclera (the whites of your dog’s eyes), often in a crescent shape at either the inner or outer corner of the eyes. Because of the visible crescent shape, “half-moon eyes” is another term for this specific look.

While displaying whale eyes, your dog will often keep their eyes fixed on you, another person, or an object. Despite appearing to focus their gaze on someone or something, they will typically lower their head and avoid direct eye contact. 

The dog’s body will often become rigid, and its actions become short and abrupt. Other signs that your dog may be anxious or stressed could include lip-licking, yawning, hair standing up along their spine (hackles), or growling.

According to Dr. Rhiannon Koehler, “When your dog is making whale eyes, they are trying to communicate to you that they are stressed or anxious. You should never punish your dog for displaying whale eyes. Although they may appear offstandish when they’re making this expression, this is normal body language, and they’re asking for your help. Instead, help your pet to feel safer, whether this be through changing their environment, providing them with distraction, or using medications.”

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What Does It Mean When Dogs Show the White of their Eyes?

A dog showing the whites of his eyes can mean a variety of things. Typically, a whale dog eye is a sign of stress, indicating it feels scared, threatened, stressed, or anxious.

This is fairly common to see when you get a new dog as the dog becomes familiar with its environment. You may also see a whale eye dog in a pet that’s been part of your family for a while if they are being introduced to a new person, animal, or environment. 

A dog’s behavior will change along with them giving you the side-eye. Dog owners should become familiar with their dog’s normal behavior, so they can more easily notice changes in body language like whale dog eye and other facial expressions.

What Causes Whale Eye in Dogs?

Whale Eye in Dogs: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

The whites of a dog’s eyes show for several reasons. Anxiety, stress, and fear are the primary culprits for whale eye dog, and we go into a bit more detail about each of them below:

  • Anxiety: Barking, howling, and pacing are all signs of anxiety. Anxious dogs can also lose their appetite and display destructive behavior. This can happen for the first time at any age and can be linked to all kinds of anxiety, including separation anxiety.
  • Stress: Pay close attention to your dog’s ears and tail when you notice the whale eye. If a dog is lowering their ears, tucking its tail, yawning, or lip licking, they are possibly showing signs of stress.
  • Fear: When hard eyes are accompanied by yawning, panting, looking away, and a tucked tail, it can be a sign of fear. A fearful dog can be unpredictable, and you should use caution when approaching a dog who is afraid.

What Other Signs Might Occur With Whale Eye in Dogs?

Whale eye dog is usually accompanied by additional signs of tension, such as changes to facial expressions, body language, and panting.

  • Facial Expressions: Your dog’s face will become sullen, and the ears will likely pull back. The whites of their eyes will start to show as the yawns or lip-licking start. Facial expressions in dogs can tell a person a lot about how they are feeling, and dog owners should be aware of their dog’s normal expressions to know when something abnormal is going on.
  • Body Language: If you see the whites of your dog’s eyes and notice their body is rigid and their tail is lowered or tucked, these are all signs that your dog is displaying true whale eyes. You may also notice raised hackles and a lowered head.
  • Panting: If your dog is panting despite not being hot, this is often a sign of stress, anxiety, or fear. 

What Is the Treatment for Whale Eye in Dogs?

Whale Eye in Dogs: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

It is important to note that a whale eye dog is a normal part of a dog’s body language and facial expression. While you aren’t actually treating the whale eyes themselves, you may need to treat your dog’s underlying anxiety or alter the environment that’s causing your pet to become stressed. 

The whale eye dog appears when dogs are stressed or frightened, so the first thing a dog owner should do is take note of their surroundings to determine whether or not it is something they are doing or something around them that is making their dog anxious. 

Examples of whale eye dog causes include getting yelled at, a stranger getting too close to them, a new pet getting close to their bed or food, thunderstorms, and more. 

Removing a dog from a stressful environment or removing the stressor is the best way to treat the anxiety and stress that’s causing whale eyes. If the stress or anxiety is chronic, then a vet may prescribe medication to help ease your dog into a more normal state of emotional health.