How do dogs act when they sense illness?

Introduction: Dogs have been known to possess extraordinary sensory abilities, often significantly surpassing those of humans. Beyond their acute sense of smell and hearing, dogs also seem to have the uncanny ability to detect illnesses in their human companions. Many pet owners have experienced their furry friends behaving in unusual ways when they or a family member fell ill. Whether it’s a peculiar change in behavior, persistent attention, or even licking specific areas on the body, dogs seem to be able to sense and react to their owner’s health issues. In this article, we will explore the fascinating ways in which dogs act when they sense illness, delving into the scientific explanations behind these behaviors and sharing real-life stories that highlight these exceptional abilities.

Readers are invited to discover the various sections of this article, where we will delve into the different signs and behaviors exhibited by dogs when they sense illness. In the first section, we will explore how dogs can detect illnesses through their keen sense of smell, often even before any symptoms are noticeable to humans. Their remarkable olfactory receptors allow them to detect chemical changes in the body and identify the presence of certain diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, or even COVID-19. In the second section, we will discuss the behavioral changes that dogs exhibit when they sense illness, such as increased attention, guarding, or even acting as a comforting presence. These behaviors can provide valuable insights into a person’s wellbeing, and in some cases, may even prompt early medical intervention. Through examining these remarkable abilities, we hope to shed light on the incredible bond between dogs and humans, and the potential benefits they bring to our health and well-being.


How do dogs act when they sense illness?

Understanding how dogs act when they sense illness can be helpful in detecting health problems early on. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, which allows them to pick up subtle changes in a person’s body odor when they are unwell. When dogs sense illness, their behavior may change in various ways. In this article, we will delve deeper into the peculiar behaviors dogs display when they sense illness, providing you with valuable insights to keep your health in check.

See also  What is the best food to keep my dog healthy?

How do dogs act when they sense illness?

Many dog owners have experienced their furry friends behaving differently when they or someone around them is sick. It is a widely known fact that dogs have a remarkable ability to sense changes in their environment, including detecting illnesses in humans. So, how exactly do dogs act when they sense illness?

Changes in behavior

One common observation when dogs sense illness is a change in their behavior. They may become more attentive, staying close to the person who is unwell, and displaying a heightened level of concern. Dogs may also show signs of anxiety or restlessness, pacing back and forth or whining.

In some cases, dogs may become more protective or possessive of their sick owner. They may exhibit guarding behaviors, such as growling or barking at strangers who approach the sick individual. This protective instinct is believed to be rooted in a dog’s natural inclination to care for their pack.

Increased monitoring

When dogs sense illness, they often become even more vigilant in monitoring the health of their owner. They might constantly be checking on the sick person, sniffing them, and even licking areas that seem to be affected. It’s believed that dogs can detect changes in body odor and any abnormalities that may be associated with illness.

Some dogs have also been reported to use their paws to gently touch or nudge the area where a person is feeling unwell. This behavior could be their way of comforting or offering support to their sick human companion.

Specialized training

While some of a dog’s reactions to illness may come naturally, certain service dogs undergo specialized training to sense and respond to various medical conditions. These trained dogs can sense changes in their handler’s body temperature, heart rate, or blood sugar levels. They provide invaluable assistance to individuals with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or epilepsy.

See also  What should I do if my dog has a cut or wound?

Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks when they detect signs of illness. For instance, a dog trained to assist a person with diabetes may nudge or bark to alert their handler when their blood sugar levels become too high or low. These dogs are true lifesavers and offer an extra layer of security for those living with chronic conditions.

Evidence-based studies

While anecdotal evidence and personal testimonials abound, scientific studies have also shed light on dogs’ ability to sense illness. Researchers have found that dogs can detect the distinctive odor of certain diseases, including cancer and malaria. In some cases, dogs have been trained to identify these diseases by sniffing samples in a laboratory setting.

One study conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas found that trained dogs could detect the presence of lung cancer in breath samples with an accuracy rate of 97%. These remarkable findings highlight the potential for utilizing dogs’ olfactory abilities in medical diagnostics.

In conclusion, dogs can exhibit various behaviors when they sense illness in humans. Their heightened attentiveness, protective instincts, and specialized training make them reliable companions and invaluable members of our healthcare systems. With ongoing research and further understanding of dogs’ exceptional olfactory abilities, we can continue to explore new ways to utilize their talents in detecting and monitoring illnesses.

According to a study by the University of Arkansas, trained dogs could detect the presence of lung cancer in breath samples with an accuracy rate of 97%.

FAQs about how dogs act when they sense illness

1. Can dogs really sense illness?

Yes, dogs have a remarkable ability to detect changes in a person’s body odor, behavior, and overall well-being, allowing them to sense illness.

2. What illnesses can dogs detect?

Dogs can detect a variety of illnesses ranging from cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, migraines, to even psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression.

3. How do dogs behave when they sense illness?

Dogs may exhibit different behaviors when they sense illness, including increased attention and vigilance towards the person, pawing or nudging the affected area, or licking and sniffing the person incessantly.

4. Can a dog’s behavior change if they sense illness in a household member?

Yes, dogs may show signs of distress or restlessness if they sense illness in a household member. They may become more protective, anxious, or clingy towards the affected person.

5. How accurate are dogs at detecting illness?

Studies have shown that dogs have a high level of accuracy in detecting illness, particularly in diseases like cancer. However, they are not infallible, and their abilities should be used as complementary to medical diagnostics.

See also  How safe is my pet’s procedure?

6. How do dogs sense illness?

Dogs use their highly developed sense of smell to detect subtle changes in a person’s body odor and biochemistry. They can detect volatile organic compounds that are released when cells undergo abnormal changes due to illness.

7. Can dogs be trained to detect specific illnesses?

Yes, dogs can be trained to detect specific illnesses through programs like medical scent detection training. They can be taught to recognize the unique scent associated with a particular disease.

8. Can dogs sense illness in other animals?

Yes, dogs can also sense illness in other animals. They are often used as assistance animals to detect diseases in livestock or as service dogs to alert their owners of impending seizures in conditions like epilepsy.

9. Should I rely solely on my dog’s ability to sense illness?

No, while dogs can provide valuable insights, it is important to remember that they are not medical professionals. Always consult with healthcare providers for proper diagnosis and treatment.

10. How can I support my dog in sensing illness?

To support your dog’s ability to sense illness, provide them with proper training and enrichment, ensure regular veterinary check-ups to maintain their health, and give them positive reinforcement for exhibiting desired behaviors related to sensing illness.


In conclusion, dogs have an incredible ability to detect and respond to illness in humans. They can sense changes in body odor, behavior, and even changes in electromagnetic fields. This innate ability makes them excellent companions and potential helpers in the field of medical diagnostics.

Throughout the article, we have learned that dogs can detect illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, migraines, and seizures. They often display signs of anxiety, restlessness, or excessive licking when they sense something is wrong with their owner. They may also show special attention and refuse to leave their owner’s side. It is important for dog owners to pay attention to these behaviors and seek medical advice if necessary.

Furthermore, research suggests that dogs have the potential to be trained to detect illnesses using their sense of smell. Studies have shown that they can accurately detect certain types of cancer and other diseases by smelling breath, urine, or tissue samples. This has opened up new possibilities for early disease detection and may lead to further advancements in the field of canine-assisted diagnostics.

In conclusion, the ability of dogs to sense illness is truly remarkable. Their keen senses and unwavering loyalty make them invaluable companions to those who are sick or in need. By harnessing their natural instincts and training them to detect specific diseases, dogs have the potential to improve early detection rates and ultimately save lives.