Table of Contents
- What is the Dog's Immune System?
- Understanding How the Dog's Immune System Works Within the Body
- How Strong is a Dog’s Immune System?
- Symptoms of an Autoimmune Issue with Your Dog
- Types of Autoimmune Disease in Dogs
- Why Your Dog Needs a Healthy Immune System
- Causes of Weak Immune System in Dogs
- Improving Your Dog’s Immune System Naturally
- Identifying the Strongest Immune Booster
- Quality Dog Care Leads to a Long Healthy Dog Life
- Foods to Boost Your Dog’s Immune System
As a dog owner, you always want what’s best for your pup—including the best quality of life possible. Your dog's immune system can weaken with age and illness, leaving them vulnerable to viral infections, cancer, and immune disorders.
If you’re looking to improve your dog’s immune system naturally, here’s how to do so effectively.
What is the Dog's Immune System?
The immune system is a network of antibodies, white blood cells, and many other substances that work to fight infection and foreign proteins within the body.
The immune system also includes several organs, functioning as a complete and networked system. The thymus gland and bone marrow are sites within the body that produces white blood cells.
Likewise, the lymph nodes and spleen work to trap foreign substances, and microorganisms, offering a place for the immune system cells to collect.
Within these areas, the body will generate an immune response, fighting foreign substances and interacting with each other.
Understanding How the Dog's Immune System Works Within the Body
The immune system protects the body against fungi, toxins, and bacteria, keeping your dog healthy from foreign invaders.
When the body detects anything that’s not its own, it triggers a secondary response within the body. White blood cells will engulf and defeat the disease or illness-causing germ.
The dog’s immune system holds a core memory of these invaders, helping the body fight recurrent infections more effortlessly.
How Strong is a Dog’s Immune System?
A dog’s natural immune system is considerably strong but isn’t necessarily stronger than a human’s system.
Comparatively, a dog’s stomach acid is considerably stronger than a human’s stomach, protecting them from illness-causing bacteria.
Occasionally, a dog may experience an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks its own tissue.
Although there’s no specific universal cause for autoimmune reactions, a few theories as to why this happens have emerged.
- After the body faces a specific infection or virus, the body mistakes healthy cells for dangerous ones, launching an attack against them.
- Throughout periods of high stress on a body part (for example, a significant injury) the body can trigger an autoimmune response like inflammation surrounding the area.
- While specifics are still being tested through comprehensive studies, scientists believe there is a strong genetic component to developing an autoimmune disorder.
Autoimmune reactions are chronic and severe health conditions. While the causes may vary, the result may prove significantly problematic.
Symptoms of an Autoimmune Issue with Your Dog
The causes of an immunosuppressive condition may vary, but owners should always know the signs and symptoms.
Symptoms may manifest as a chronic or ongoing skin condition (seemingly without cause), including red skin, itching, or oozing.
These conditions may present as a urinary tract infection, like frequent urination or straining to urinate, or an overall lethargy and depression.
Symptoms may also present as diarrhea, lethargy, or weakness, especially if presenting suddenly.
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately for evaluation. Following your veterinarian’s protocol for follow-up and medication is paramount in the dog’s recovery.
Never adjust medication without consulting the vet first. Adjustments could result in your pet’s immune disease becoming unregulated, making it difficult to regain control over the disease over time.
Types of Autoimmune Disease in Dogs
When your dog is diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, it might seem like a scary situation.
The severity of autoimmune diseases can vary significantly, posing unique circumstances and individual symptoms within the pet. On the rare side of autoimmune conditions, Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a hereditary condition in dogs.
Some breeds are more predisposed to the condition, including Poodles, Irish Setters, Shetland Sheepdogs, Beagles, and Collies. Most symptoms appear around six years but can show at any time.
Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP) occurs when the immune system attacks thrombocytes within the body.
Thrombocytes are responsible for forming blood clots within the body, making things significantly detrimental if there’s any bleeding.
Symptoms include excessive bleeding after surgery, injury, or during menstruation, bruising, and blood in the stool or urine.
ITP is commonly treated with corticosteroids and immunosuppressive medications. Occasionally, the spleen is removed as well. Some dogs directly benefit from a plasma or blood transfusion.
Why Your Dog Needs a Healthy Immune System
Maintaining a healthy immune system is essential for a variety of reasons.
This includes fighting foreign microorganisms that deteriorate tissue function and deplete cells, an adaptation of physiological conditions, or preventing diseases throughout their life.
Your dog’s immune system determines its overall survival. It’s a critical component in every stage of life, with nearly 10-30% of all puppies dying before three weeks old (if a healthy immune system doesn’t develop).
When the dog matures, the immune system works to fight neoplastic, autoimmune diseases, and inflammation.
Causes of Weak Immune System in Dogs
There are several factors that will influence your dog’s immune system, starting with genetics and working out toward environmental impacts.
External influences for weak immune systems include excessive stress, allergies, poor sleep, and surgery. Recognizing these risk factors is a critical first step, along with taking special care of your dog.
Preventative action to keep your pup healthy can lessen the impact on the immune system, although genetic components will always influence the overall health of the dog.
Several breeds are predisposed to hereditary immunodeficiency, including Doberman Pinschers, Corgis, Beagles, and Jack Russell Terriers.
Improving Your Dog’s Immune System Naturally
While many factors play critical roles in the pup’s health and wellbeing, there are a few things pet owners can do to naturally strengthen the immune system.
Add these items to your regular routine for optimal health.
Physical Fitness and Activity Through Play
Active dogs will always have a stronger immune system than sedentary dogs. Encouraging physical activity by walking your pup for at least thirty minutes a day and playing with your dog can improve the immune system overall.
Any aerobic exercise that makes your dog pant is decent physical activity. These activities include running, swimming, fetching, and jumping.
Thankfully, getting activity with your dog is beneficial to your overall health too. Studies have shown that human physical activity increases by 57-77% for dog owners.
Offer Fresh and Clean Drinking Water
Always keep a bowl of clean water available for your dog. Dogs require plenty of fresh drinking water to protect against bacteria that might hard the dog and weaken the immune system.
Make sure that your dog accesses the water freely, without restriction (unless medically advised). You’ll want approximately one ounce of water per pound of bodyweight every day.
Add Supplements to Your Dog’s Diet
Although high-quality food is essential for your canine’s immune system, supplementing your dog’s diet is always helpful for immune functioning.
Adding additional vitamins and nutrients can fortify a dog’s health, whether it’s temporary or a daily item in their diet.
If you’re looking for optimal vitamins, consider adding vitamins A, C, D, E, omega-3 fatty acids, prebiotics and probiotics, and zinc.
Identifying the Strongest Immune Booster
While nutrient-dense foods are always beneficial for dogs, some vitamins and nutrients can boost the immune system overall. These include the following supplements:
Vitamin C: An antioxidant that protects against viruses and infections, while fighting free radicals.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: All fatty acids will reduce inflammation and support joints, heart, skin, and the immune system
Vitamin E: This fat-soluble vitamin can improve muscle functioning, eyes, skin, and heart.
Probiotics: When promoting good bacteria and yeasts, probiotics help balance the digestive tract. Probiotics also counterbalance any harmful bacteria that might otherwise weaken the immune system.
Feed Your Pup a Well-Balanced Diet
Studies have shown a direct connection between proper nutrition and a robust immune system for your dog.
Always look for high-quality food that is rich in nutrients and minerals. Read the labels and look for high-quality ingredients, especially foods that hold plenty of whole foods (instead of meals or grains).
Be mindful of the portion sizing and control for your dog. A healthy weight is important for the immune system, minimizing the strain on the dog’s system overall.
Avoid Stressful Situations
Stress can seriously impact your dog mentally and physically. Stress forces the body to release cortisol, which is ideal for fighting stress and detrimental situations, but too much can weaken the immune system over time.
Some breeds are more susceptible to loud noises, anxiety, traveling, and other stressful events.
It’s essential to understand contributing factors of stress for your dog and continue to do your best to reduce or eliminate stressful situations.
Have Regularly Scheduled Care
Regular check-ups with a quality veterinarian are the easiest way to boost your dog’s immune system. Your vet can easily recognize the triggers and symptoms that are early signs of immune compromise, guiding your dog back to good health.
Quality Dog Care Leads to a Long Healthy Dog Life
Taking the time to ensure your dog has a healthy life is the first step in improving the overall health and wellness of the immune system.
The immune system is your dog’s first line of defense against long-standing illness or injury.
Foods to Boost Your Dog’s Immune System
While extensive research is available for improving human health and wellness, few dive into the nutritional influence on a dog’s immune system.
This includes taking a high-quality probiotic and working to improve the gut health of our furry companion.
Your dog’s microbiome contains over 70% of its immune system, making it an influential component of the overall health of your pet.
While owners should always look for premium food for their dogs, adding additional items into the diet significantly improves overall wellness.
Here are seven foods to start feeding your dog, to improve the immune system and maintain the gut of your puppy:
Blueberries for Dogs
These small little berries are often identified as a superfood and with good reason. While they’re low in calories, blueberries are high in a wide range of other nutrients.
These delicious snacks are great for your dog, rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin K.
Rebuilding the immune system starts with foods rich in vitamin C, making bananas the perfect food for your fur baby.
This fruit is full of magnesium, potassium, and fiber, making it a sweet treat your dog is going to love.
Due to the natural sugar content, it’s crucial to only feed bananas in moderation or as a treat.
Full of calcium and protein, yogurt is rich in active cultures that offer probiotics to your pet’s diet. Probiotics are responsible for maintaining bacteria within the gut while building essential gut health.
Always choose unsweetened, plain yogurt (as some sweeteners can be hard on the stomach). This item can be difficult to digest for some dogs, so always limit the amount when introducing it.
Carrots for Dogs
This incredibly versatile ingredient can help protect your dog against multiple diseases and illnesses. As an excellent source of potassium, vitamin A, and fiber, it works to strengthen the immune system in multiple ways.
Dogs can eat raw or cooked carrots, without losing nutritional value. Feeding your dog raw carrots can help boost your dog’s dental health too – making it beneficial food that your dog’s going to love.
Carrot Recipe: Apple and Carrot Limited Ingredient Dog Treats
Broccoli for Dogs
While this vegetable might get a bad rap with children of all ages, it’s a beneficial food for humans and canines alike.
Many dogs enjoy broccoli raw and cooked, packed full of vitamin C for a stronger immune system. Make sure to offer broccoli in small quantities, as this fiber-rich vegetable can occasionally cause gas.
Pumpkin for Dogs
If your dog is suffering from an upset stomach, canned pumpkin is the perfect food to soothe the stomach. Rich in potassium, iron, vitamin A and C, this vegetable is perfect for boosting your dog’s overall wellbeing.
Pumpkin holds plenty of fiber to aid in digestion while staying low in calories for those trying to lose a few pounds.
PUMPKIN RECIPE: Recipe: Pumpkin Rosemary Dog Treats
Finally, bell peppers are the immunity-boosting food that your dog is going to love. Offer extensive nutritional benefits, the bell pepper is high in antioxidants and essential vitamins, reducing inflammation and joint pain.
Bell peppers also contain beta carotene for optimal coat and skin, along with low-calorie content.