Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I’m Sick?

Dogs can sense the owner’s illness through smell, facial expressions, and body gestures. They will stay by your side, cuddle, and even lick you.

Why does my dog lick me when I’m sick? Licking is one way to feel the owner’s status and show their thoughts. Let’s find the meaning of this behavior.

Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I’m Sick?

why does my dog lick me when i'm sick

When dogs sense your illness, they lick to comfort and relieve your stress.

They also want to show their affection and anxiety; your dogs like to taste you and get your positive attention.

To Comfort You

Licking is a common comforting behavior of dogs that want to antisepticize minor wounds and release the pain.

When they lick you, they want to say, “It’s ok. I’m here for you.”

To Get Your Attention

You are prone to spend less time with your pets during your hard time. Dogs – attention seekers, cannot stand it.

They can bark, chew toys, damage things, or run to get your attention.

Licking is also a way to say, “Hey, look at me!”. From time to time, this can turn into a bad habit, so setting boundaries and training your dog to avoid obsessive licking would help.

To Show Affection

Dogs have the instinctive behavior to groom themselves and their friends, making their owners have affectionate actions toward them.

This behavior means caring in the dog’s world.

If your pets do it to you, they want to show their love and want to calm you down.

To Taste You

Dogs have 1,700 taste buds which help them explore the world through their tongues, getting information and mesmerizing it by tasting things.

As happy receptors, your sweat changes when you are under the weather. Once they have a sense of smell on your health status, they lick and remember your taste.

To Lower Your Stress Level

Many studies have answered, “Why does my dog never leave my side when I’m sick?“.

Animal trainers have proved that dogs help decrease catecholamines. It is a group of hormones appearing when humans are under the weather. 

Conversely, they assist in increasing endorphins against pain and create excitement in humans. It may prompt them to lick to soothe and comfort their owner.

To Show Their Anxiety

When anxious, dogs may exhibit various behaviors, including licking their owners. Licking makes you feel better, at the same time, releases your pet’s anxiety issues.

If your dog’s licking action is repeated many times (the cause of anxiety), it is best to consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

How Does My Dog Know I’m Sick?

Dogs know you are unwell from your hormone levels. Your happy receptors and other hormones change according to your health status.

It leads to different body scents if you are sick.

Can dogs sense sickness in humans? Well, dogs own 220 million scent receptors and inhale 300 times per minute. This born ability allows them to feel the world through smell.

A study in the early 21st century showed that dogs could detect cancer with high accuracy. It is believed that humans can train them to feel the scent of different diseases.

They may notice changes in your behavior when you are ill; facial expressions, voice, and body language are also a hint for your pets. 

Sleeping more or being less active is evidence.

Can I Train My Dog To Sense My Sickness?

Why is my dog acting weird when I'm sick

Yes. You can train your dog to sense your sickness using positive reinforcement training.

When they come to check on you, you should give them a treat and a compliment, making them understand and repeat to get goodies.

Gradually, it turns into a good habit for your pets.

You can also give specific cues, such as a certain behavior, or choose any action as a sign of illness and repeat it whenever you are unwell.

The repetition makes puppies realize the owner’s health condition.

A study approved the training process works with cancer patients. As a result, dogs can detect more! Let your pets smell other ill members so that they can sense yours.

Your four-legged friend can become sensitive to your health with consistent training and reinforcement.

Afterward, his/her likely provides comfort and support when you need it most.

How Do Dogs React When They Smell Illness?

Dogs may react in different ways depending on the type of the owner’s illness.

For example, if a pet smells cancer, he/she will be more attentive and try to sniff the affected area. Once a dog smells a seizure coming on, it may feel anxious and try to alert you.

They become clingy to you when you get ill. They will sit by your side, follow your step, and cuddle you to release your pain and tiredness.

Dogs are even more protective and attentive when they sense their owner is sick. When people approach you, your pets can become aggressive

They also offer excessive licking to you. Many complain, “Why is my dog acting weird when I’m sick?”.

They want to comfort, cherish, care for, love, and worry about you. Additionally, this behavior is a way to release their anxiety.

Yet, not all dogs are trained to detect illness, and their reactions may vary. It would help if you observed your pets to check their ability to sense your health condition.


What do dogs do when they sense illness

Why does my dog lick me when I’m sick?“. Pets can sense the owner’s health status through smell, facial expressions, etc.

By licking their owners, they can have a calming effect and help lower stress levels. Some may interpret this behavior in puppies as a sign of anxiety or attention-seeking.

Not all dogs can sense your unwellness, but you can train them. They may be a helpful assistant when you feel bad. It’d better set a boundary for their behavior.

In case your pet licks you when you’re feeling under the weather, know that it’s their way of saying, “I’m here for you.”

Thank you for reading this article, kindly share it to your friends if it is helpful for you.


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Hi I am Mitchell. Dog Growth is a blog about dog caring and training where I share my experiences to my community. Hope you enjoy it!

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