Do Dogs Know When You are About to Get Sick?

This study shows that even humans can smell disease in other people; is that why some people hate hospital smell?

Maybe it’s just selective memory at work making me think the dogs know when I’m about to get sick.

The Scent of Disease

Human Body Odor Contains an Early Chemosensory Cue of Sickness


Observational studies have suggested that with time, some diseases result in a characteristic odor emanating from different sources on the body of a sick individual. Evolutionarily, however, it would be more advantageous if the innate immune response were detectable by healthy individuals as a first line of defense against infection by various pathogens, to optimize avoidance of contagion. We activated the innate immune system in healthy individuals by injecting them with endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide). Within just a few hours, endotoxin-exposed individuals had a more aversive body odor relative to when they were exposed to a placebo. Moreover, this effect was statistically mediated by the individuals’ level of immune activation. This chemosensory detection of the early innate immune response in humans represents the first experimental evidence that disease smells and supports the notion of a “behavioral immune response” that protects healthy individuals from sick ones by altering patterns of interpersonal contact.

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One thought on “Do Dogs Know When You are About to Get Sick?

  1. We know dogs can smell changes in body chemistry so I believe they could smell when you are getting sick. There are service dogs who alert people when they are about to have a seizure or need insulin. I read about a cat who lived in a nursing home and would always visit people right before they died. I like to think he could smell that they were dying and went to comfort them.

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