Can a Dog Tell if You are Sick?


Dogs are incredible animals with finely tuned senses that allow them to detect signs of illness in humans. Their acute sense of smell can detect changes in the chemicals in our bodies and even sense our moods or changes in our metabolism. Dogs can also sense hormonal changes and even detect if someone is pregnant. They have the ability to smell different chemicals released by the body, making them aware of disease and ill health. Dogs are our devoted companions in both sickness and good health.

Signs Your Dog is Sensing You are Sick

Dogs always greet us with a good sniff, sensing our overall scent and where we have been. They want to tune in to our well-being. Sometimes, dogs may try to smell embarrassing areas of our bodies, but this is all part of checking on our health and welcoming us home. Dogs have the incredible ability to detect cancer cells and melanoma through their sense of smell. They can also sense changes in the chemicals in our bodies and warn epileptics when a seizure may be about to happen. Dogs can even detect lung cancer on a patient’s breath and pinpoint the location of a mammary tumor. There are also cases of dogs detecting bladder cancer and prostate cancer through the different smells of urine. A dog’s sensitive nose can also detect blood sugar changes and the presence of ketones in diabetic patients. People suffering from epilepsy have the help of trained therapy dogs to alert them to the onset of a seizure. Dogs are also super sensitive to changes in our moods and body language. They will want to sit close to us and try to comfort us with their presence. They can sense if we have a temperature or if something is not right.

Body Language

Some signs that our dogs may give us if they sense we are sick include head tilting, sniffing, licking, lying close, nuzzling, and watching us closely.

The History of Dogs Sensing Sickness in Humans

Dogs have had an amazing effect on everyone since we brought them into our family lives for companionship. Young and old, as well as those suffering from an illness, have all been touched by the support and love of a dog. The first recorded therapy dog, Smoky, a Yorkshire Terrier, made a huge difference in the recovery of Corporal William Wynne, who was wounded and recovering from war in the 1940s. Smoky’s presence not only improved the corporal’s condition but also brought joy to other patients. This paved the way for therapy dogs to be involved in helping wounded soldiers and other patients with their recovery. Purina and the Mayo Clinic Foundation have also teamed up to study the benefits of animal-assisted therapy.

The Science of Dogs Sensing When We are Sick

There is scientific evidence that dogs can detect illness. Their sense of smell allows them to detect specific odors, known as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), in our bodies. Dogs have been trained to pinpoint tumors and their accuracy is remarkable. Additionally, dogs have been shown to have healing qualities as they make patients happier by being able to pet them. Dogs help patients release beneficial hormones like endorphins and dopamine, which can make them happier and aid in their healing process.

Training Dogs to Sense When You are Sick

Training service dogs and therapy dogs requires specialized and extensive training, but the benefits to those in need are worth it. Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks to help people with disabilities, while therapy dogs have a broader role in helping the sick and emotionally needy. If you believe your dog has the right temperament to become a therapy dog, you can have their behavior assessed by an animal behaviorist or assessor. They will need to be caring, affectionate, and have a calm disposition. Basic obedience commands such as sit, down, stay, come, and leave are important for therapy dogs to know. They should also be comfortable being touched, patted, and hugged. Therapy dogs need to be calm in different situations, comfortable in crowded places with strangers, and exposed to wheelchairs, strange noises, and smells. They should not exhibit any negative behavior while being handled, such as growling. Handlers will also need training to ensure they can control their therapy dogs during visits to hospitals and old age homes.


Becoming involved in therapy work with your dog is a rewarding experience for both of you. Dogs have an amazing ability to sense when we are sick and provide comfort and support. They can detect illness through their sense of smell and have been trained to assist in various medical situations. Dogs have a special healing effect on patients and can make a significant difference in their recovery. If you believe your dog has the right temperament, consider training them to become a therapy dog and bring joy and comfort to those in need.

“A dog’s nose knows – they can sniff out illness with an accuracy that rivals modern medical technology. Their companionship can be a balm to those in poor health, providing comfort and solace when it’s needed the most.”

Tips & Things to Know

1️⃣ Dogs have an exceptional sense of smell that enables them to detect changes in our body’s chemicals. They can sense illnesses, hormonal changes, and even predict seizures in epileptics. They are able to detect specific diseases like cancer and diabetes by smelling changes in our breath or urine.

2️⃣ Dogs are sensitive to our moods and body language. If you are unwell, your dog may sit close to you to comfort you, or display signs such as head tilting, sniffing, licking, nuzzling, or watching you closely. They are great companions during times of illness as they offer nonjudgmental and supportive presence.

3️⃣ Dogs can be trained to be therapy dogs, helping people who are sick or emotionally in need. If you believe your dog has the right temperament to be a therapy dog, you can have them assessed by an animal behaviorist. The dog should be caring, affectionate, calm, obedient, and comfortable being touched or hugged. The handler will also need training to control the therapy dog in different situations. It is a rewarding experience to have your dog trained as a therapy dog.

Frequently Asked Questions, Answered ✅

1. How can dogs sense signs of illness in humans?
– Dogs have a finely tuned sense of smell and can detect changes in the chemicals in our bodies, enabling them to be aware of disease and ill health.

2. What are some examples of illnesses that dogs can detect?
– Dogs can detect cancer cells, melanoma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, blood sugar changes in diabetic patients, and the onset of seizures in epileptics.

3. What are some signs that a dog may give if they sense that their owner is sick?
– Some signs include head tilting, sniffing, licking, lying close, nuzzling, and watching their owner closely.

4. What is the history of dogs sensing sickness in humans?
– The first recorded therapy dog was a Yorkshire Terrier called Smoky, who made a significant difference in the recovery of wounded soldiers in the 1940s. This paved the way for therapy dogs to be used in helping patients with their recovery.

5. How are dogs trained to sense when their owners are sick?
– Service dogs and therapy dogs undergo specialized and extensive training. Therapy dogs need to have a caring and affectionate temperament, respond to basic obedience commands, be comfortable being touched and in crowded situations, and exhibit good health and behavior. Handlers also need training to be in control of their therapy dogs during visits to patients.

Max Kozinskiy
Max Kozinskiy
Max Kozinskiy is a seasoned writer and an enthusiast of dog breed expertise. Having dedicated over 5 years to studying the intricacies of different dog breeds and their unique characteristics. His profound insights and love for our four-legged friends have made him an invaluable part of our team.

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