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Underdog Blog

Feeling feverish? Your pup knows when you’re sick as a dog

Sabrina Ortiz

By Katie Walsh


As I sit down to write this, I’m the sickest I’ve been in a good long while. I’ve got an upper respiratory infection, ear infections in BOTH ears, and pink eye -- basically, every hole in my head is clogged with something nasty. I’ve been tearfully and dramatically begging my husband to provide me with the sweet release of death. Thus far, he has not obliged.

“Why are you telling us all this on a dog rescue’s website?” you may be asking.

I don’t fault you for the question. I’d be wondering the same thing. The answer, dear reader, is this:


That’s my pup Ginger, all snuggled up on my lap. While she’s normally happy to snooze next to me, it’s highly unusual for her to actually be IN my lap. In fact, ever since I came down with The Plague a few days ago, she’s been particularly attached to me. It started to occur to me: Hey, this dog knows I’m sick!

I’ve heard dogs can be trained to detect cancers and send an alert when their owner is about to have a seizure. But I wasn’t expecting my pup, who hasn’t had any formal disease-detecting education, to realize there was anything going on with me. I decided to do a little research to see if what I was seeing with Ginger while I’ve been under the weather was all in my head. What I found out was truly incredible and all the more proof that dogs are absolutely the BEST.

For starters, Ginger is likely keying into my body language. It makes total sense when you think about it -- dogs can’t talk, and the main way they communicate with each other is through physical motions. When there is a lack of pep in my step, she sees it and adapts to it. I even found some sources that indicate dogs can read the facial expressions of their owners, so while I’ve been an absolute weepy mess -- and make no mistake, I’ve cried A LOT -- she’s been quietly comforting me through my ailments.

But perhaps the most compelling piece of information I found out there about why Ginger has been such a good nurse for me this past week comes down to a very important doggie part:

Yes, this little gal’s sniffer is very likely the thing that has made her aware that I am infirm. Obviously, we all know that dogs have better senses of smell than people do, but I’m not sure I realized just HOW much better they are until I started looking into it for this blog. Dogs’ senses of smell are anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute as that of humans. They even have separate pathways in their noses for smelling and breathing, as shown in this graphic:


So, while I’ve been sick and my body chemistry has changed, Ginger has most certainly smelled it. In fact, I can tell you -- no lie -- that she’s specifically stuck her nose right under my nose in an apparent attempt to smell my snot. There is no doubt in my mind that she was getting a whiff of the infection that was raging in my sinuses, before I even had a chance to go to the doctor for an official diagnosis.

Would you look at that -- my little dog is a regular Florence Nightingale. Good girl, indeed.

In a few days, my antibiotics will have done their work and life will return to normal, meaning I won’t be able to look forward to having Ginger all curled up on my lap anymore. But until then, I’m going to sit back, relax, and enjoy some puppy TLC -- truly the best medicine of all.