Can dogs sense when you're sick?

Can dogs sense when you're sick?

Dogs are wicked smart. There’s no doubt about that, but are they capable of really knowing what’s up? Can your dog sense when you’re sick or if there’s something that you aren’t aware of like an invisible illness?

These are questions the Joyride Harness team started asking so we knew it was time to hit the web.

We know there’s truth to dog’s keen abilities and empathy, but is their radar strong enough to know what’s happening in your body? 

The Study

According to Cosmos (The Science of Everything) Magazine, dogs get stressed when their dog owners are in distress. 

They explain, “Dogs who hurry to comfort their owners may be doing so out of empathy, according to a study published in the journal Learning & Behavior. Not only can they perceive changes in human emotional states, but man’s best friend will take it a step further and overcome physical obstacles to go to an owner’s aid.”

A study was conducted where dogs were exposed to different sounds through a closed door. When opening a door, the dogs could hear more audible crying (distress). These dogs were observed to be more on edge and stressed by the sound of crying. 

Dogs & Sensing Pregnancies

There are stories and anecdotes of dogs getting protective of their pregnant owners even before their bellies showed. In expert advice reported by the American Kennel Club (AKC), “Dr. Barrack points out that changes at home will always have an effect on a dog. “Your dog is smart enough to pick up on these changes during pregnancy, both in a physical way — which is how your body will be changing, your stomach, your smell — and in an emotional way, such as your feelings and your mood.”

Pregnancies aren’t the only times your dogs will pick up on these changes.

Dogs & Sensing Illness

The Atlantic reported on dogs detecting illnesses. In their article, Alexandra Horowitz, the head of the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College explained that if a person contracts an infection or illness, they smell different. 

The Atlantic writes, “Some illnesses change a person’s odor so profoundly that even other people can notice it, but dogs are able to smell changes in their people that would escape human senses, or that are so early on that the sick person barely feels any different. That’s because dogs have exponentially more powerful senses of smell than humans: They can have as many as 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose, as opposed to a paltry 6 million for the average person.”

The Answer

It’s the easy explanation: Dogs’ sharp sense of smell allows them to identify differences with their humans. If there’s something largely off about their scent, dogs may try to offer affection and comfort to their humans.

What you’ve just read is a sampling of blog posts we offer at Joyride Harness. We cover current events, informational posts, interviews, and more! You can find more content including tips and tricks and how-tos for caring for your dog on our blog at this section.

Share this post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.


Headquartered in sunny Los Angeles , CA, we are committed to providing products that will make you and your dog happier and better with each other and out in the world.

learn more