Can dogs sense your illness
The sensory perceptions of dogs especially their olfactory or smelling capabilities are far superior to humans. Studies have revealed that dogs can smell the difference in your body if all is not well and understand your illness if trained properly. Even when they are not trained for it and are just domesticated animals, they have the knack to sense your discomfort and distress. You must have noticed this also that if you are down with flu or cold, your dog shows extra affection for you by cuddling with you more or lying by your side for long hours.
Signs to show they care for you when you are sick
Dogs try to comfort their hooman parents when they sense that you are feeling a little under the weather. They start spending more time around you, lying on the couch beside you or just somewhere close to you. This is because they are trying to comfort you and letting you know they are there for you. You will also notice that they are being less demanding of you because they sense that your energy level does not seem to be the same as always. They are also calmer and quieter and not demanding to play with you as they usually do. Even on walks they pull less or are just a little less excited as they know you are tired and weary.
Dogs try to adjust their behaviour according to the cues they pick from your body language. They want to lower your stress levels and make you smile in times of sickness more than they would in times of health.
How dogs sense illness
The sense of smell in dogs has always been their most powerful trait and they have been using this amazing intellect since forever. Even when dogs were wild and undomesticated, they relied on their sense of smell for hunting and sensing dangers nearby. In a similar fashion dogs sense illness because the chemical changes the human body undergoes during sickness emits a different smell which can be caught by the dogs early on. Dogs can also sense illness in fellow dog companions. If you have seen them licking a spot on another dog, this means they are trying to help the affected dog.
The science of it all
When a person is sick, our happiness receptors and hormones like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin reduce considerably. With their keen sense of smell, dogs can detect even these minor changes and may know your impending sickness even before you start getting symptoms. Certain chemical changes in the body especially VOC’s or volatile organic compounds are well detected by the dog’s acute sense of smell and thus they aid in early detection of several illnesses.
Training dogs to detect sickness
Just like bomb detection or drug sniffing dogs are trained for their specific job, similarly dogs are trained to detect serious illnesses including cancers of various kinds. These types of dogs are called medical detection dogs and they undergo training for that purpose. For illnesses like cancer, dogs are trained in a laboratory based environment and made to work with blood samples to detect whether or not a blood sample is likely to test positive for a certain type of cancer. In case of diabetes, dogs are trained to sniff out diabetic patients by picking up on a specific scent and none of other scents that they come in contact with during certain situations. Dogs are also trained to detect a heart attack before it happens by relying on their sense of smell.
With these amazing capabilities of dogs, they are truly man’s best friend because a friend in need is a friend indeed!
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