How Our Dogs Know We’re Sick Before Others Do

Medical News Today

It’s flu season. Despite there being more and more precautions and advisories to stop touching your face and to wash your hands, sometimes we just cannot control how we pick up the germs. Before our significant others or kids notice that we are sick though, usually one family member who knows and sympathizes with how we feel: the dog.

No matter how hard we insist that we’re absolutely fine, that this is a 24-hour bug, that we just need a nap and some water, and we’ll be right as rain, our doggos can tell that we are lying through our teeth. When we’re sick, they usually become more attentive and follow us around everywhere and snuggle up to us every chance they get. It’s weird, but so many people can testify that their dogs just know when they’re sick. How do they know this in the first place?

According to Katelyn Schutz, a certified dog trainer at Wisconsin Pet Care, their noses just know. “When a person is ill, their body chemistry will change, and a dog’s sensitive snout may be able to detect these subtle changes, letting them know we are sick,” she explained.

No matter how particular we are about how we smell, a dog’s nose is much more sophisticated than our own. We may not notice any difference in our body odor when we’re sick, but our dogs can absolutely smell the difference. This is why some dogs are able to detect cancer with just their noses.

Good Housekeeping

“Often with 90 percent or more accuracy, the trained nose of a dog can smell lung cancer on someone’s breath, pinpoint the location of a mammary tumor, or detect bladder or prostate cancer from someone’s urine,” Schutz said.

More than just smell however, our furbabies are far more observant (some would say, empathetic) than people when it comes to our behavior. Perhaps because they aren’t verbal like humans, they rely much more on behavioral cues to read the mood and situation. They can tell when a cold has us feeling down and tired, perhaps because they don’t see us smiling as much we often do. Yes, your dog notices your smile. Let that realization wash over you for a moment. You are loved.

Of course, because our dogs are such sweethearts, they usually want to do everything they can to help us feel better. This comes in the form of following us around, getting really close to us for snuggles, and generally being caring individuals to the best of their abilities. And it works for many people! Most dog owners say that a cuddle with their pups when they’re under the weather is more comforting than any old bowl of chicken soup. Next time you find yourself not feeling so great, and you try to soldier through whatever funk it is you may be feeling, do pay attention to how much your dog is hovering around you. You may already be sick, and you don’t know it yet — but your dog sure does. The sooner you slow down, get some rest, and maybe cuddle for a bit with your pup, the sooner you will start to feel better.