Power Up Fido: Five Ways to Strengthen Your Dog’s Immune SystemJul 30, 2021 ● By Shawn Messonnier
A long, healthy life for our animal companions depends on them having resilient immune systems that can resist disease. While supporting a dog’s immunity during illness is vital, it’s also important to help it maintain natural defenses when well to help stave off disease. Adopting all five of these suggestions will help promote optimal wellness.
1. Minimize vaccines
Vaccinations can help prevent disease when the immune system responds appropriately to such treatments. However, when dogs are over-vaccinated, improper immune responses can cause immediate allergic reactions or chronic problems such as autoimmune disorders and even cancer. A simple and inexpensive blood antibody test called a titer can determine if and when a dog may require a vaccine after completing the first adult booster vaccination visit. Dogs with serious and chronic immune disorders should never be vaccinated.
2. Minimize chemicals and medications
Overuse and misuse of chemicals and conventional medications can harm a dog’s body in numerous ways, including causing adverse effects on the immune system. Whenever a chemical product such as a flea preventive or conventional medication like a steroid or antibiotic is needed, we should ask two important questions. First, whether there is a safer, natural alternative to use—there usually is. Secondly, what the lowest dose is to heal the patient. Usually, lower doses of many chemicals and medications can be used safely and effectively. Some doctors over-prescribe chemicals and medications because of incorrect diagnoses, a lack of knowledge of safer natural therapies and to increase their income.
3. Feed a great diet
No matter what else is done to keep a dog healthy, it is critical to feed a good, natural diet, either homemade or purchased from a reputable company that specializes in healthy, natural foods. Many pet foods are full of unhealthy ingredients that may not be helpful for a dog’s immune system. Animal and plant byproducts, which typically are scrap from the food processing industry, provide little if any positive health benefits and may actually be harmful to a dog. Added chemicals, flavorings and colorings have no specific wellness attributes and may harm the dog’s DNA through oxidative damage, resulting in various immune problems such as cancers.
4. Enable exercise
As with people, a sensible exercise program for a dog is important. It keeps the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems in great shape by mimicking the natural activities that a dog’s wild relatives experience every day. It also strengthens the immune system and builds and enhances the human-dog bond.
5. Use supplements
Dogs that receive supplements every day tend to live longer, feel better and act happier. Even when they may have serious problems like cancer from which they may not recover, they are healthier, stronger and happier while battling the disease. Good formulas contain enzymes, probiotics, glucosamine, vitamins, fatty acids and minerals to help support a normal dog’s overall constitution.
Choline reduces symptoms in senior animals with cognitive disorder and reduces the chances in normal older animals of developing it. Its use is advisable for animals with liver disease or diabetes and for those with seizures. Chamomile and tryptophan reduce any type of anxiety or phobia. They can also reduce itching in allergic patients with an obsessive component to their scratching.
Olive leaf extract is not only good for immune support, but can also help animals with infections of the ears and skin, making it a good alternative to antibiotics and anti-yeast medications. A cancer and immune support supplement containing scute, cordyceps, poria, American ginseng and coix is good for any animal with an immune disease, chronic infections and especially cancer.
These five easy and inexpensive steps to keeping a dog’s immune system healthy will reduce trips to the doctor and extend his life with minimal effort.
Shawn Messonnier, DVM, owner of Paws & Claws Animal Hospital and Holistic Pet Center, in Plano, Texas, is the author of several books on veterinary medicine.