Whether you have a small cold, or you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic disease, your dog will always seem to know this and will give you extra love and affection.
After all, they’re the best creatures for giving us warm fuzzies. For some, your dog’s behavior might seem a little weird and be a cause of concern.
If you’re sick and your dog is acting weird, should you get worried? How do they know that you’re sick?
We share with you how dogs can sense your illness and why they act weird when you’re ill. We also discuss what you should do when your dog knows you’re sick.
Can Dogs Sense If You’re Ill?
The short answer to this is yes. Dogs can sense that you are sick and it’s not just your imagination. They know when their humans are having a rough time, and they use a lot of signals to figure it out.
Domestic dogs have shown an aptitude for detecting both much more minute mood fluctuations and far more serious physical conditions.
Even if we try to deny that we don’t feel so good, our four-legged friends know what’s up and start becoming more attentive. They might be following us around everywhere and snuggling up to us at every opportunity.
Some dogs can even be trained to sniff out volatile organic compounds in the bodies to help detect illnesses like cancer.
With 90% accuracy, the trained nose of a dog can smell lung cancer on someone’s breath, pinpoint where a mammary tumor is, and even recognize bladder or prostate cancer from someone’s urine.
Trained dogs can also show information about blood sugar changes and ketone presence in diabetics or let us know when someone with epilepsy is about to have a seizure.
Dogs can also sense if we’re sad. They can smell and sense the rise and fall in our feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. When we are ill, these hormones often plummet, and our dogs are usually the first to know it.
Why Do Dogs Act Weird When You’re Sick?
Now that we confirmed that dogs can sense illness, we now ask why they act the way they do when they detect you’re sick. That’s because dogs are naturally sensitive to changes in their people.
Since dogs have a strong sense of smell, and our smells change when we are sick, then they react differently.
Certain sicknesses can drastically change one’s odor to the point that even other people notice it. But dogs can smell even these smallest changes?
Yes, they can. In fact, they have 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose, as opposed to a paltry 6 million for the average person.
As mentioned, dogs can also detect your mood. Human emotions manifest physically in chemosignals that are emitted by the body, and dogs are adept at deciphering those changes.
Aside from their sense of smell, dogs can also gather information from your voice.
A study in 2014 shows that dogs have an area of the brain, similar to one found in humans, that allows them to decipher emotional cues in the tone of a speaker’s voice, beyond what they’d be able to pick up from familiar words alone.
I know you want to hear that they act weird when you’re sick because they care about your well-being, but there is still not enough evidence of that.
It could be that they are just being curious or suspicious that there is something wrong with you.
How to Tell if Your Dog Knows You’re Sick
Over centuries of breeding, domestic dogs have become even more attuned to humans than they are to their fellow dogs.
It’s easy to tell if your dog knows you’re sick, especially if you know how they normally behave when you’re feeling good.
Your dog’s concern might be in the form of vigilance, and you can tell that they know something is wrong when they turn into the guard dog you never knew you had.
Because they are sweethearts, they will want to do everything they can to make us feel better. They will cuddle with you and follow you wherever you go.
They may also keep on smelling you, and that’s normal. As mentioned, dogs use their sense of smell to detect changes in our bodies.
However, don’t take it personally if they try to avoid you when you’re sick. They also provide a needed break from interaction when we’re not feeling emotionally able to handle it.
What to Do About Your Dog’s Weird Behavior
The only advice we have when your dog starts acting weird when you’re sick is to not get so worried. No matter what the illness is, your dog may sense it and react in an unusual manner, but don’t react back with concern.
The way your dog responds to your illness will depend on the way you also respond.
Dogs will mirror your behavior, so if you are anxious, your dog will be, too. If you are lazy and calm through an illness, your dog will also be.
There is no need to stop them from sniffing you, snuggling, and following you around.
Similarly, if you’re irritable, that could cause your dog to be anxious and distant because they can’t figure out what’s going on.
Avoid baby-talking your dog or it will give them positive reinforcement of that behavior and cause their suspicion to be heightened.
Go on with your usual routine, speak to them in your normal voice, and accept the comfort they bring you.
Otherwise, they might be more anxious and show signs of distress like:
- excessive drooling
- tucked tail
- ears pinned back
- excessive shedding
You don’t want this to happen, especially when you’re sick, right?
Get Well with Your Dog
If you’re sick and concerned about your dog’s changed behavior, don’t double the burden by being worried.
Dogs have become even more attuned to humans than they are to their fellow canines and they can smell the changes going on in your body.
It is fascinating how their scrunched noses can detect cancer, ketone production, tumors, and some illnesses in your body.
Even if your dog is not trained to do this, they will show their concern by snuggling with you in bed and following you everywhere.
Don’t worry about how your dog reacts to your sickness or they will get worried and distressed.
Let them know you’re fine by sticking to your usual routine and trying to improve your own health.