4 min read


Can Your Dog Sense You're Sick?



4 min read


Can Your Dog Sense You're Sick?


The cold or flu is no one’s favorite thing. If you’ve experienced this (and most of us have) you’ve had enough sniffles, tissues, and cough drops to last you for a lifetime. It’s also hard because once you feel the cold coming on, you need to stumble down to the drug store and stock up on cold and flu essentials. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a sixth sense that could tell you in advance if you were coming down with the sniffles?

Well, humans might not have that ability, but it turns out dogs might. That’s right! Your furry best friend might be able to tell if you’re sick earlier on than you can. This doesn’t just go for the cold and flu either, it has been proven dogs can smell our serious illnesses like cancer, as well.


Signs Your Dog Might Sense You're Sick

So, since your pooch can’t verbally tell you that they know you’re sick, what will they do to alert you? Well, according to, dogs and even cats might do a variety of things. The first thing you might notice is that your pet may go into hiding. This could mean they are scared or sick themselves, but it also might be a warning to you. 

Another thing your pup might do is whine or cry at you. They also might bark at you constantly or start acting really erratic. If you’re seeing any or all of these signs, it might be time to see your doctor.

Once you’re actually showing symptoms of the illness, your dog may try to comfort you. This includes extra snuggles, staying close to you, and giving you extra kisses. Some of the best sick days are ones spent cuddled up with your furry friend, watching Netflix, and taking naps.

Also, even though your dog might signal to you that you are getting sick, those signs might not mean you have a cold or the flu. They might also mean you have a more serious issue brewing. Not to make anyone paranoid, but dogs are masters at smelling out changes in our bodies and have been known to sniff out more serious health issues, as well.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog is trying to warn you that you're sick:

  • Staring
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Sniffing

Other Signs

Here are some other signs you might notice if your dog is trying to comfort you while you're recovering:

  • Snuggling You
  • Kissing You
  • Staying Close By

History of Dogs Sensing Sickness


Historically, dogs haven’t really been used to sense sickness in humans, though there are studies that show that dogs can sense illness. However, our furry companions have been a great help to us for thousands of years. 

They’ve helped us to stay healthy by walking with us and helping us stay active. They have also helped us to hunt, gather, and farm for our food. Dogs are great companions and have helped keep us comforted and happy. They have also helped to protect us from harm - so why not warning us of illnesses too? It seems like they can do it all.

Science Behind Dogs Sensing and Signaling Sickness


Scientifically, there is actual research that points to dogs being able to smell different kinds of cancer. According to Animal Planet, studies have been done on dogs smelling cancer. That’s right! During several studies, dogs were able to sniff out breast cancer 88% of the time, lung cancer 97% of the time, and colorectal cancer 98% of the time. They did all of this just by smelling breath samples from people.

As a result, some scientists believe dogs might have a “sixth sense” when it comes to sensing illnesses. Most likely, it has to do with the fact that dogs have an incredible sense of smell and can smell chemical changes in the human body. Dogs are also amazing at studying human body language and routines. 

So, if you’re coughing or sneezing from a less serious illness, your dog might pick up on this. He or she will also notice if you stay home in bed and skip out from the office for a few days. They can tell in a variety of ways if you’re ill, simply because they are also very receptive to human behavior.

Training Your Dog to Sense Sickness


When it comes to training your dog to sniff out illnesses, you probably can’t. It seems they come with that ability themselves. However, there are wonderful stories of dogs being trained to be service dogs for people that have health problems, disabilities, or need a little extra help. Dogs can be trained to do amazing things like open doors, retrieve needed items, comfort a distressed person, or even get help for people in dire situations.

This kind of training comes from highly skilled dog trainers, so it’s not something you can do at home. However, if you would like to learn more about service dog training, do some research and find a reputable training program! It’s a noble thing to do, but it can also be very challenging. So, it’s important to make sure it’s something you’re genuinely dedicated to completing.

So, next time you feel the sniffles coming on, snuggle up with your furry friend and feel comforted knowing that they understand.

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By Katie Anderson

Published: 04/09/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
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