Can Dogs Detect Illness?

Jun 4, 2024 | Pet Health, Pets

Happy Wednesday everyone!  Can Dogs Detect Illness?  Dogs are incredibly smart.  Mr. TAL and I brag all the time about how smart Jake and Maggie are.  Each have their own strengths with has been fun to see them develop.  I wonder that, if we ever got sick (God forbid), would they be able to sense what was going on.  Today’s post is about the questions and answers on the dog’s ability to detect sickness in humans and other dogs as well.

Jake and Maggie playing in the yard

Can you tell which doggo doesn’t want to take pictures?  :-).   It was a beautiful day.  We went for a walk and relaxed in the yard.  The Bow Ties Jake and Maggie are wearing are from Naughty Paws if you are interested in checking out their website.

Can Dogs Detect Illness? |
6 Signs of a dog knowing you are sick:
1.  Wants to cuddle with you more
2.  Your dog may also be a little calmer in your presence, be less demanding of walks and playtime, and they may even pull less or be less excited on their walk if they know you are not feeling your best. This is because they know you are tired and your energy is much lower than it normally is. 
3.  They pick up on your cues and adjust their behavior accordingly.
4.  Dogs sense illness through the chemical changes in our bodies, so it is likely dogs were able to detect illness in their humans for thousands of years. 
5.  Dogs are also able to detect sickness in fellow dog companions, as well. If you have ever seen a dog intently licking a spot on another dog and then find there is a sore or scrape there, this is because the dog can sense it and they are trying to help the affected dog. 
6.  Typically, the biggest indicator of illness is through odor. Dogs can detect metabolic changes in our breath and through our skin.  Most recently, a test was studied on dogs’ ability to detect COVID-19. Overall, the average rate of successful detection was 94%.
Can Dogs Detect Illness? |
Science Behind Dogs Sensing When You’re Sick
When a person is sick, there are certain chemical changes in their body that can be detected by a dog’s keen sense of smell. In particular, they are able to detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that aid in the early detection of illness and that includes cancer as well.
There’s no contest when comparing a dog’s sense of smell to their human’s. A dog has about 300 million scent receptors compared with a human’s 6 million.
When we are sick, our happiness receptors and hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin reduce. Dogs can pick up on these small changes as well and they may even know you are getting sick before you become aware! Your lack of energy will also be picked up by your dog as well. They are able to sense your emotions and pick up on facial cues that let them know you are not yourself.
Can Dogs Detect Illness? |
What conditions can dogs sense?
Can dog’s sense pregnancy?
Though there’s no research confirming a dog’s ability to detect pregnancy, there are many stories of dogs changing their behavior when pet parent(s) become human parents.
Given a dog’s ability to smell hormones and pheromones (a chemical, such as a scent, that signals behaviors like mating), it’s likely that they can sense pregnancy.
Can Dogs Detect Illness? |
Can dogs detect cancer in humans?
Dogs also have a tendency known as neophilia, which means they’re attracted to new and different smells and will investigate them to see what they are. This incredible sense of smell and neophilia help dogs detect cancer.
When a disease state is affecting your body, the disease has a specific odor or trace signature. Cancer is the same, and when a person has cancer, the odor trace will be detectable to a dog as it’s different from the “normal” smell your body emits.
Humans have a smelling power ranging from .04 ppm (parts per million) to about 57 ppm. Dogs, however, can smell things in the parts per trillion, which means they can smell a single odor-causing cell in over a trillion non-odorous cells. This incredible sensitivity to smells and odors is why dogs can smell cancer when no human can.
Can Dogs Detect Illness? |
Which Cancers Can a Dog Smell?
There seems to be no limit to the types of cancers that dogs can smell, as all cancers have an odor signature they can detect. That being said, there do seem to be some cancers that are easier for dogs to detect than others, including:
Colorectal cancer (from feces)
Ovarian cancer (from blood samples)
Prostate cancer (from urine)
Lung cancer (from breath)
Breast cancer (from the skin)
Medical Conditions That Dogs Can Sniff Out:
Low Blood Sugar
Fear and Stress
Parkinson’s Disease
Can Dogs Detect Illness? |
Animals are amazing beings and I’m in awe at what they can do.  I hope you found this post helpful.
Want to know more about what dogs can do, check out my older posts here:
I’m Bobbi Jo, a lab-lover who took my passion for animals and dogs and turned it into something bigger.  When I adopted Jake and Maggie, my love for them became the driving force behind Two Adorable Labs, and my blog was born.  My hope is to not only share them with the world, but to help educate others on the importance of animal health and well-being.

Two Adorable Labs has become a collection of all that I love.  I’ll send one post each week on things that bring me joy on animal health, home decor, and food recipes for humans and our furry friends.  I hope you enjoy these posts and much as I do creating them!

Can Dogs Detect Illness? |
Can Dogs Detect Illness? |
Can Dogs Detect Illness? |
Can Dogs Detect Illness? |

I love hearing from all of you and do my best to respond to each and every one of you.  I always enjoy your comments, feedback, and suggestions so keep them coming!  If I’ve posted a recipe (for our human and our furry friends) and you try it, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @twoadorablelabs and use #twoadorablelabs​.

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