Do Dogs Know When You Are Sick?
Estimated Read Time: 3 ½ minutes
Summary: In this blog, we’ll discover if dogs can tell if you’re sick and what dogs do if they know you are unwell...
Have you ever been laid up in bed or on the couch with a foul cold and had your pup come and nestle in beside you or rest their head on you? Perhaps an even more serious illness has occurred in your life or within your family and the dog's behavior has changed or become more attentive around that person...
Some pregnant people also report that their pet’s behavior changed when they became pregnant – some claim their dog even knew before they did!
So, can dogs tell when you’re sick or if your body is changing or different?
Do Dogs Know When You Are Sick?
Yes, dogs can tell when you’re sick. But what’s more interesting is how they can tell!
They Can Smell It
Dogs experience the world very differently from humans – their sense of smell is up to 10,000x more powerful than ours and they can hear higher-pitched noises than us.
Our human body gives off different scents depending on our health status and every human being gives off a unique scent too – even identical twins give off different smells. So, if your body changes your scent will too, so that’s usually how dogs can tell if you’re sick, or even pregnant. Your mood can even change how you smell as well!
Some dogs are even trained to become alert dogs because of this incredible sniffing ability. For example, some dogs can tell when someone living with seizures is about to have one because their body’s state - and thus scent - changes before the physical fit happens. The dog can indicate to their owner a seizure is about to take place and the person can get themselves to somewhere safe to have the seizure in a more controlled way.
One study in London, UK found that dogs could detect the pandemic virus Covid-19 in a person in under a second!
They Can Read Body Language
Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive off a daily routine. If your routine changes because you are sick, your dog will know something’s up. They may seem agitated and confused, and that’s probably because they are worried about why things aren’t happening at the usual time combined with a shift in what they can smell.
They Can Hear It
Dogs can hear changes in your voice and read your facial expressions so if you’re feeling under the weather your dog will respond to this, especially if you sound different or read differently.
What Do Dogs Do When They Know You Are Sick?
A dog’s reaction to their owner being sick will vary from dog to dog. Some may become quite stressed and seek comfort from their owner, and some may attempt to comfort them by cuddling or resting alongside them. Some may even suddenly become the guard dog and attempt to protect you from any harm while you’re not feeling yourself!
What’s worth noting is that if you like the behavior they adopt in any way, rewarding them with praise and healthy treats will help them learn to repeat this behavior in the future.
Author Gibeault, Stephanie MSc, CPDT “Does My Dog Know If I’m Sick?” American Kennel Club, Nov 03. 2022 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/advice/does-my-dog-know-if-im-sick/