We have all had days when our bodies aren’t in the best of health and the last thing that we want is to be sociable.
Dogs, for a fact, do fall sick from time to time. It could range from your dog’s stomach being a little ‘off’ to a condition that requires veterinary attention.
Having a sick or injured pet isn’t easy for any pet owner.
We’ve all heard the old saying that dogs prefer solitude when they’re ill. But how much truth is there in that?
It is instinctive for most dogs to want to seek shelter or be alone when they are sick to hide from danger. However, there are some dogs that prefer to be near their owners all the time.
In this article, I’ll share insights on typical dog behaviors when they’re unwell, tell you about signs to watch for and share tips on caring for a sick dog.
Understanding Canine Body Language
As someone that has both a dog and a cat, I do find dogs a lot easier to read and understand as compared to their feline counterparts.
Dogs tend to wear their emotions on their paws, unlike most cats.
A wagging tail, a playful bow or a quizzical head tilt, all of these are examples of our dogs ‘talking’ to us through their body language.
When dogs are feeling unwell, they communicate that too but the signs may not be that noticeable.
If your dog has eaten some spoilt meat and is paying the price for it, you will be able to tell from its body language.
Each dog is unique and their normal behaviors and habits can vary widely.
It’s essential to know your dog’s usual body language, energy levels and routines so that you can spot when something is ‘off’ with your dog.
The behavior changes may be small but they can be the earliest indicators of sickness.
There might be times when a behavior change isn’t due to sickness but from your dog feeling uncomfortable after getting a vaccine shot.
Early detection often makes a significant difference in the speed and effectiveness of treatment for sick dogs.
Do Dogs Really Want To Be Alone When Sick?
You might have heard a common saying that animals prefer to be left alone or even go off to a quiet and comfortable place when sick.
This belief likely stems from the natural instinct of wild animals, where the weak or sickly would do this to hide from danger.
Pack animals like wolves would distance themselves from the pack to avoid drawing predators.
Weak animals are a prime target for predators as they make an easier catch.
Given that dogs directly evolve from wolves, it’s not surprising to see them exhibit the same behaviors when sick.
Scientific studies have shown that even creatures such as bats, ants and mice tend to isolate themselves when sick1.
Should you not expect the same behavior from your sick pet as well?
Applying this behavior to our dogs might not be rather accurate.
Our Dogs Are Domesticated
That cute and adorable canine that you see in front of you has come a long way compared to its ancestors.
It is said that dogs have been domesticated for more than 11,000 years, even before any other known species.
Through thousands of years of domestication, the process has cultivated a strong bond between dogs and humans.
This has molded the behaviors of domesticated dogs that don’t always mirror those of their wild counterparts.
Dogs don’t longer see humans as a danger or a threat but as a source of comfort, safety and a point for social contact especially when unwell.
A dog will seek out its owner when it is feeling scared or anxious just like how young kids would towards their parents.
There’s a strong probability that a sick canine companion seeks solitude.
All these behaviors reflect a desire for comfort, security, and companionship rather than solitude.
Our dogs know that they can depend on us for food, shelter and even medical assistance2.
It isn’t uncommon to hear about injured or sick stray dogs seeking out human intervention.
Even when you are feeling sick, there’s something comforting about a warm cup of soup prepared by a loved one or just their presence in the same area.
Call me a big baby but my mom brings over her amazingly nutritious chicken ginseng soup when I’m sick.
She will then proceed to fuss over me which I will pretend to dislike.
It’s the same for dogs.
They may not need a hot soup but the warmth of their favorite human’s presence?
That’s something no dog can say no to.
Signs That Your Dog Is Sick
It is rather easy to tell when someone is sick. They tend to exhibit the same symptoms and signs.
Your dog won’t verbally tell you it’s sick but it is easy to pick up on changes in its behavior.
- Changes in posture (hunching, trouble walking, etc)
- Excessive grooming
- Drop in energy levels
- Change in sleep pattern
- Change in toilet habits
- Being less sociable
- Loss of appetite
- Vocalization (whimpering, whining, etc)
- Unprovoked aggression
Recognizing these signs of discomfort and changes in behavior is key to identifying when your dog is sick and needs help.
Many dog owners tell me that their dogs won’t leave them alone and demand more physical contact when feeling unwell.
The biggest tell-tale sign for me to know when my pooch is sick is when my dog suddenly starts to eat less.
Should I Bring My Dog To the Vet?
You don’t have to speed dial your vet whenever your dog starts to eat less or has an upset stomach.
Dogs have their off days as well and can bounce back to normal by themselves in a day or two without medical attention.
I will usually give my dog a day or two to see if he shows signs of improvement.
Otherwise, he will most definitely be making a trip to his favorite vet for an examination.
How Do You Comfort A Sick Dog?
My dog is part of my family and when he isn’t feeling too well, I do what I can to help with his recovery.
Make Your Dog Comfortable
The last thing anybody wants when they are sick is to be in a noisy environment.
Let your dog sleep or rest in an area or room which is quiet and comfortable.
If it is too hot, turn on the a/c or fan for your dog.
If it’s too cold, get the heater going.
You can place a towel or blanket on your dog’s bed or in its crate to make it feel more secure.
Hydrate Your Dog
What’s the one common advice you hear when you are sick?
Drink more water.
And this applies to your dog too.
Hydrating your dog when it is sick helps to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes when it’s sick.
Adding some pure or raw honey into the water can also help with inflammation.
Feed A Proper Diet
Here at Petsbeam.com, we are big advocates of feeding your pet a diet that is as close as possible to its natural dietary requirements.
And for dogs, that would be a diet that is high in animal protein.
When your dog isn’t feeling well, it needs all the nutrients that it can get.
Boil some chicken and mix in some white rice and feed your dog. This combination is easy on your dog’s tummy.
Feeding your dog unhealthy human food or kibbles isn’t the best choice.
I’m usually not a fan of feeding my dog carbs on normal days, white rice can be easily absorbed and digested by the dog.
This does help when your dog doesn’t have much of an appetite when it is sick.
Offering Emotional And Physical Support
I understand that many of us dog parents have full-time jobs.
But if your dog is feeling unwell, taking a day or two off from work to look after your dog can help with its recovery.
Dogs are highly social creatures and your presence can provide enormous comfort.
Spending time with your dog, gently stroking its fur or simply sitting beside them can reassure them and strengthen the bond you share.
Dogs are intuitive enough to pick up on your emotions. So speak to your sick pup in a soft, soothing tone.
Remember, your dog might not understand what’s happening when they’re feeling unwell.
Providing a comforting, reassuring presence can help ease their discomfort and anxiety.
Why Does My Dog Keep Wanting To Be Alone?
Dogs are pack animals that prefer to be in the company of other pets or humans.
It isn’t natural for a dog to want to be alone most of the time unless there is something bothering it.
If your dog suddenly desires to be alone, it could be due to several reasons:
- Fear or anxiety
- Lack of socialization
If you notice any significant changes in your dog’s behavior, it’s always a good idea to consult with a vet to rule out any potential health issues.
2. Judith Benz-Schwarzburg, Susana Monsó and Ludwig Huber, How Dogs Perceive Humans and How Humans Should Treat Their Pet Dogs: Linking Cognition With Ethics