When you’re sick, sometimes there’s no better treatment than cuddling your four-legged companion. Many times, dogs will stay right beside their owners when they’re under the weather. Their behavior might even seem a little strange. But can your dog know when you’re sick?
Human illnesses give off certain odors that dogs’ great olfactory senses can smell. Dogs will act differently because they can smell something is different. They are also very observant of human emotions and behavior and will notice if you lack energy.
Dogs have a great sense of smell and are very observant of their human companions’ emotions and behaviors. They may act differently and will either cuddle you until you’re better or altogether avoid you. Some dogs can even sense that you’re sick when you don’t know it yourself.
I’m Sick, and My Dog is Acting Weird
If your dog is acting weird while you’re sick, it’s because it knows you’re in pain! Their behavior can change in several ways because no two dogs are the same. Maybe your not-so-cuddly pup won’t leave your side, or your typically loving pet is too afraid to be in the same room as you. Either way, your dog is merely reacting to sensing that you’re ill.
Dogs are keen observers and will often mirror human behavior. When you’re sick, do you stay calm and rest all day, or are you irritable? If you remain calm and collected, chances are your dog will act the same. On the other hand, anxious owners make for anxious dogs.
Of course, if you’re getting over an illness and your pup is still acting weird, you might consider heading to the vet. A change in appetite or energy could indicate a medical issue.
My Dog Won’t Leave My Side
While there’s a lot of debate over whether dogs feel empathy, it’s no secret that they want to comfort us when we don’t feel right. They want to please us and make us happy. Studies have shown that a dog’s presence will improve a person’s mood and reduce stress levels. Those same chemical changes aid us in recovering from illness. Your pet feels better near you, too!
My Dog is Avoiding Me
While many dogs try to comfort their humans when they’re sick, some can act oppositely. They may avoid you or hide in their safe place. Don’t worry, though, your dog doesn’t hate you! They’re merely reacting to the strange chemical changes in your body and don’t know how to help.
It’s a behavioral trait certain dogs have, and it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It could only mean that they don’t like that you’re in pain or upset, and they don’t know how to comfort you. They may also be acting nervous because of your behavior, as noted above. You can help your pet calm down by talking to it in a familiar voice to show everything is fine.
How Can My Dog Sense That I’m Sick?
According to Wisconsin Pet Care, a dog will sense human illness by sniffing out bacterial or viral infections or hormonal changes. They also notice changes in behavior that indicate something is wrong. There are four main ways a dog can tell that you’re sick:
They Sniff it Out
Dogs have excellent noses. According to Wisconsin Pet Care, dogs can have up to 50 times the scent receptors than us – that’s a sense of smell 100,000 times stronger than humans! They can smell and sense things with remarkable accuracy.
Dogs can use their snout to sniff out just about anything – including illnesses. Bacterial and viral infections change our body, and a dog’s nose can detect these chemical changes (Source: Wisconsin Pet Care). Suppose your sickness is tied to a specific part of your body (i.e., strep throat). In that case, you may even notice your dog paying extra attention to that area.
A dog’s snout isn’t just useful for detecting everyday illnesses. Did you know there are trained dogs that can sense diabetes and cancer? According to the American Kennel Club, cancer cells give off a specific odor. Dogs can sniff out this odor from a person’s breath to the point where cancer first formed in the body (called “in situ”).
They Sense Our Hormones
When we’re sick, our happiness-producing hormones (oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, etc.) fall. Dogs can sense when our hormones change and know if we’re happy or sad (Source: Wisconsin Pet Care). They may already know that being close to you will make you happy, so they’ll cuddle up to you while you’re sick. Cuddling their companions make them happy, too!
They Are Master Observers of Human Behavior
When we’re sick, our routines most likely change. We become lethargic and will stay in bed or home from work for a day or two. Our furry companions are used to our daily routines, and when that changes, they know something is up. They’ll change their habits (which is most likely lying on the couch while you’re gone!) to match up with your new behaviors.
Dogs Recognize Facial Expressions
Several studies have proved that dogs can recognize certain facial expressions, particularly the difference between happiness and anger. They don’t just recognize the changes in our mouth lines. They see small changes, like an eyebrow raise or wrinkle by the nose, that indicate a change in expression. Dogs will react to facial expressions in either positive or negative ways.
Is My Dog Trying to Tell Me I’m Sick?
In a worst-case scenario, dogs can know when people are sick before the people realize it themselves. We already know dogs can detect cancer cells – and even certain cancers. A dog’s change in behavior around a sick individual can send warning signs that something is wrong.
Studies show that dogs can detect cancer at its earliest stages. Trained cancer-sniffing dogs are masters at it, but there’s proof that untrained dogs who live at home can sense it, too. There are several ways a dog might sense a human has a severe illness:
- Staring intently to alert you
- Fixation on the specific area (i.e., throat)
- Pawing at the affected area
- Behavioral changes
Like the InSitu Foundation, several organizations specialize in training dogs to detect cancer as early as possible. They’ve performed clinical trials using a team of trained canines. They have proven that dogs have a higher accuracy of detecting early-stage cancer than traditional screening methods (Source: InSitu Foundation).
The next time your pooch is acting weird, pay attention. They’re either not feeling well themselves and need a vet check, or they’re trying to tell you something about your own body.
If your dog is acting weird when you’re sick, it’s because it’s reacting to the changes in your body, emotions, routine, and facial expressions. They respond to, however, you’re feeling. If you act calm, cool, and collected while sick, so will your furry friend. If you’re irritable or upset, they may run in the other direction from anxiety.
A dog’s nose is an extraordinary tool. Dogs can sense illness and other chemical or hormonal changes with fantastic accuracy. They’ve proven to detect serious diseases like cancer at its earliest stages, saving many lives in the process.
There’s no need to worry if your dog is acting strange around you while you’re sick. Furry companions want to make you feel better – some don’t know-how. So, cuddle your pup a little more – it’ll be good for you – and your dog’s – well-being.