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Do Dogs Know When You Are Sick?

Do Dogs Know When You Are Sick?

Have you ever been under the weather and noticed your furry friend sticking close by, offering comfort and companionship? This isn't just a coincidence. Many believe that dogs have a unique ability to sense when their humans are not feeling well. But how true is this? Let's dive into the world of canine intuition.

Introduction to canine intuition

Dogs have always been known as man's best friend. Their loyalty, love, and keen senses make them exceptional companions. But do these senses extend beyond the obvious?

Understanding dogs' senses

To grasp this phenomenon, it's essential to understand dogs' extraordinary senses.

Dogs' sense of smell

Dogs possess an incredible sense of smell, much more potent than humans. Their olfactory receptors are estimated to number in the billions, compared to our mere millions. This extraordinary capability allows them to detect minute changes in our body's chemistry, such as when we're ill.

Dogs' emotional sensitivity

Beyond their keen sense of smell, dogs are highly attuned to human emotions. They can read our body language, tone of voice, and even our pheromones. This emotional radar makes it easy for them to sense when something is amiss.

Dogs and their human bond

The bond between dogs and humans is ancient and profound.

Evolution of the human-dog relationship

From hunting partners to loyal companions, dogs and humans have evolved side by side for millennia. This close relationship has allowed dogs to become finely tuned to our behaviours and emotions.

Signs your dog senses your illness

When you're unwell, your dog might become more attentive, clingy, or even act differently. Some dogs might whine or become restless, while others might stay close, offering silent comfort.

Scientific studies on dogs sensing human ailments

While personal experiences suggest dogs can sense our ailments, what does science say?

Studies on dogs detecting diseases

Research has shown that dogs can detect certain diseases, like cancer, by sniffing samples. Their acute sense of smell can identify specific volatile organic compounds produced by diseased cells. 

The role of service dogs

Service dogs trained to assist people with conditions like diabetes or epilepsy can alert their handlers of an impending episode. These dogs are trained to detect subtle changes and react accordingly.

Personal stories of dogs detecting sickness

Countless anecdotes suggest dogs have an uncanny ability to sense health issues.

Cancer detection by dogs

There are numerous accounts of dogs persistently sniffing or licking a specific spot on their owner's body, which later turned out to be cancerous.

Dogs sensing emotional distress

Beyond physical ailments, dogs can also sense emotional turmoil. Many stories tell of dogs comforting their owners during emotional breakdowns or bouts of anxiety.

How to notice if your dog is sensing your illness

Your dog's behaviour can be a significant indicator.

Behavioural changes in your dog

Watch for unusual behaviours like increased clinginess, restlessness, or a change in their daily routine. If they act out of the ordinary when you're feeling unwell, they might be sensing something.


Dogs are truly remarkable creatures. Their keen senses, combined with their deep bond with humans, give them an almost mystical ability to detect when we're not feeling our best. Whether through science or personal experience, one thing is clear: our dogs are always there for us, in health and sickness.


  1. Can dogs detect diseases other than cancer?
    Yes, dogs have been trained to detect various conditions, including low blood sugar in diabetics and impending seizures in epileptics.
  2. How do service dogs alert their owners of an impending episode?
    Service dogs might nudge, bark, or adopt specific positions to alert their handlers.
  3. Are all dogs equally sensitive to human emotions and health?
    While all dogs have keen senses, some breeds or individual dogs might be more attuned to human emotions and health than others.
  4. Can I train my dog to detect health issues?
    While specialised training is required for detecting specific diseases, all dogs naturally tune into their owner's well-being.
  5. Do dogs act differently around sick children compared to sick adults?
    Dogs might exhibit heightened protective instincts around sick children, but they generally offer comfort regardless of age.
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