4 min read


Can Dogs Tell if You are Sick?



4 min read


Can Dogs Tell if You are Sick?


Nobody likes to get sick. It does not matter if it's just a little sick, like a headache, or a lot sick, like the flu. It's hard to have the energy to do anything, let alone the feeling bad and aching. If you are lucky, the best thing about being sick is owning a dog. 

There is nothing more comforting than having your sweet, furry pooch snuggle up and nuzzle, staying at your side. It's like the dog really does know you are sick and knows that by just being there, your dog is doing everything he or she can to help you feel better.


Signs Your Dog Can Tell You are Sick

Your dog is truly loyal and is able to read your behavior. Your dog watches your facial cues, posture, energy level, and hears your tone when you speak. You can do the very same things with your dog to tell how your dog is feeling and to take a read on how your dog is reacting to the situation. 

Dogs can vary in how they show their feelings. Take the time to observe your dog and to learn about dog body language. Just as your dog is good a reading your behavior, you have a responsibility to learn to read your dog's behavior.

There are many ways that your dog shows you affection when you are not feeling well. Your dog will show you concern by being near you and following you around. Your dog will show you appeasement, which is your dog's signal of "fitting in" or, perhaps, empathy. 

Dogs show appeasement by not giving you direct eye contact. They will look away, blink, and give sideways glances. The dog will keep their ears down. The tail is relaxed. Your dog is not ignoring you or bored if they are yawning. You might see the dog licking the lips and settle the head on the paws.

When your dog comforts you, he or she is showing you love. There are other ways you can feel the love of your dog. Recent studies have shown that dogs will lift the left eyebrow when they love someone. You may also see the dog lift the left ear back. You may find your dog leaning against you. 

Dogs will stare at something or someone they want. Those big, puppy eyes are sending you signals of "I love you". If you find your dog laying on your stinky socks, it is out of love. You are lucky to be greeted with enthusiasm by your dog when you come home because your adoring pet is really happy to see you.

Body Language

Signs that your dog can tell you are feeling sick include:

  • Yawning
  • Lip Licking
  • Dropped Ears
  • Averting Eyes
  • Blinking

Other Signs

More clues your dog will give if they know you aren't feeling well are:

  • Staying By Your Side
  • Mimicking Your Behavior
  • Nuzzling Or Nudging You

The History of Dogs Knowing When Someone is Sick


Our bond with the dog has evolved over the course of centuries. We want to believe that we changed the dog. In truth, the dog has changed us. When we are around dogs, our physiology is better. Our heart rates slow, our blood pressure is lowered, and we release a hormone called oxytocin, the love hormone. 

Not only do we experience these physiological benefits, but we are emotionally better off as well. Our dogs lessen our anxiety. They make us feel safe and even bolster our courage to make us feel brave. They are sensitive to us as well. 

In studies on the capacity of dogs to be responsive to humans, scientists show that dogs are sensitive to human facial and vocal cues, and have preferences for human praise. Just as we experience elevations in oxytocin when we are around them, their levels are higher when they are with their owners. It is no wonder they give us such comfort when we are sick and they are near.

The Science of Dogs Telling When We are Sick


It's not our imagination when we find our dogs showing concern for us when we are sick. Studies have shown that dogs can tell when we are sick. They have been shown to be accurate in identifying changes in the human body that are associated with specific medical conditions.

Studies have also shown that dogs will read our facial expressions. When you are sick, your dog will be able to tell that something is wrong by your face. Dogs learn your body language and energy level. When your energy slumps, they will notice. 

The dog has a fantastic sense of smell. They can smell hormone and physical changes in your body that occur when you are sick. They can even tell when you have changes in your blood sugar. Studies have shown they can detect cancer, narcolepsy, migraine, seizures, and anxiety attacks. A true mate, your dog is a loyal companion in sickness and in health.

Training Your Dog to Know You are Sick


While your dog probably knows when you are feeling under the weather without any encouragement, you can train them to be even more responsive to your needs. That way, whenever you are feeling green, your pup will know to give you lots of extra love.

First, make sure you are not turning your dog away when you feel sick. If you scold your dog or push them away from you when you are sick, your dog will think you do not want them near during times of illness.

Next, make sure you are rewarding your dog for doting on you. This can be done easily by petting and praising your pooch for being by your side when you are feeling bad. You can even sneak them a treat if you are looking to really reinforce this behavior.

Finally, make sure you return the favor when your dog is sick. Get them the medical attention they need, and give them extra care during their illnesses.

Have questions or concerns about your pet?

Chat with a veterinary professional in the Wag! app 24/7.

Get Vet Chat

By a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lover Pat Drake

Published: 06/11/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
Does your pet have a supplement plan?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.