What Are Some Natural Remedies for Dogs with Weak Immune Systems?
Almost 70 million U.S. households now have at least one dog as a family member, and a growing number of pet owners have shown interest in natural remedies for their pets' immune systems and overall health. In fact, 35% of pet owners who participated in the 2021-2022 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey said that their pet supply purchases increased during the year, including for wellness products.
According to veterinarian Dr. Susan Wynn, these pet owners are on the right track. She says that about 70% of the immune system is housed in the gastrointestinal (GI) system which processes food. "The gut also contains your microbiome––the collection of hundreds of species of bacteria—and the bacterial balance in the microbiome is heavily influenced by the diet," states Dr. Wynn, via petMD.
In this short guide, we'll explore the importance of your dog's immune system for health, what can weaken it, and some signs and symptoms that it may be compromised. We'll also give dog owners some key strategies for boosting their dog's health naturally, and reveal the best nutritional ingredients for thriving immune health.
Why a Healthy Immune System is So Vital for Dogs
The benefits of a thriving immune system for your canine companion are enormous. A strong, healthy immune system can ward off viral, parasitic, and bacterial infections, reduce allergic reactions, increase vaccine tolerance, and lessen injury recovery time. It can also reduce the risk and symptoms of a whole host of diseases common to dogs, including cancer and osteoarthritis.
This is because the cells, proteins, bone marrow, vessels, and lymphoid organs of your dog's immune system work together to launch a healthy immune response to foreign invaders, while also shutting off this response at the proper time to maintain a balanced state of wellness in your dog's body. When this immune response is compromised, health issues can occur. For example, cells called lymphocytes keep pathogens at bay – which is good - yet a failure to properly shut off their production due to weakened immunity can lead to cancer tumor growth.
That's why a healthy immune system is so vital to your dog's ability to live a long and healthy life.
What Can Trigger a Weak Immune System in Dogs?
The normal cycles of life can cause changes in your dog's immune responses. Pregnant dogs, puppies whose immune systems are still developing, and aging dogs are particularly susceptible to a weak immune system.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, disease, birth defects, viruses, and certain drugs can also compromise your dog's immune system by lowering phagocyte (foreign body defense cell) responses and counts, reducing antibody production, and decreasing cell-mediated immunity by T-cells.
This lowers your dog's ability to fight off bacteria and other pathogens and can lead to cancer tumor growth, especially in the lymph nodes. It may also trigger a chronic inflammatory response that has been linked to osteoarthritis.
In addition, your dog's diet, dog food, and stress from environmental factors like a recent move or loud noises are linked to the suppression of dogs' natural immune responses, as are autoimmune diseases.
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What are the Symptoms of Low Immunity in Your Dog?
While symptoms may vary based on the underlying cause of your dog's weakened immunity, in general, you should be on the lookout for:
- Multiple or reoccurring infections
- A reduced ability to heal from injury or illness
- Excessive thirst
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Lethargy and weakness
- Increased allergic reactions
- Loss of appetite
Best Tips for Boosting Your Dog's Immune System Naturally
There are actually some great ways to help boost your dog's ability to fight off disease and illness naturally.
One of the best strategies is to make sure they're getting the proper nutrition and probiotics. Studies have shown that anti-inflammatory diets rich in antioxidants and antibacterial, antifungal, antitumor, and antiviral ingredients have a positive effect on your canine companion's overall immune health. Include things like fish oil, broccoli, blueberries, and a variety of foods rich in vitamin a, vitamin c, and b vitamins into your dog's diet. A balanced diet will control body weight and provide well-being. Avoid kibble with lots of sugar.
Playing with your dog regularly is another excellent way to keep your dog's fat levels within a healthy range, which strengthens immunity by lowering inflammation. Ideally, most dogs should get 30-40 minutes of exercise per day, and you can check with your veterinarian to find out the best "play plan" for your dog based on their size, breed, health profile, and age.
You can also find out some more great immune-boosting tips in our recent article 'Here's How You Can Boost Your Dog's Immune System'.
What Can I Give My Dog to Boost its Immune System?
Great question. You might be surprised to learn that certain nutrients found in high concentrations in medicinal mushrooms like Turkey Tail, Reishi, Shitake, and Maitake have shown some of the most powerful immune-boosting properties. For instance, Turkey Tail contains Polysaccharide P (PSP) extract, which has anti-cancer properties. In one recent study, dogs with a type of cancer known as hemangiosarcoma had the longest canine survival rate ever recorded for the disease after being treated with PSP extract from Turkey Tail.
Reishi mushrooms also offer your dog strong protection. They've been shown to trigger tumor necrosis factor (TNF) production to help kill cancer cells and properly regulate immune cell response, and they're packed full of healthy polysaccharides for protection against pathogens. Research also reveals that they may increase plasma antioxidant levels, which is linked to a healthy immune response.
Shitake mushrooms are a great source of zinc, a key nutrient needed for optimizing animal immune performance. In addition, they have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties to help keep your dog free from debilitating infections and disease. Maitake mushrooms work especially well in combination with Shitake to launch an immune system defense.
One other top nutritional immune ingredient for your dog is actually a spice that you might have used yourself. White turmeric root extract contains the active ingredient curcumin that has enormous health benefits for people and pets alike, including several potential routes to block cancer tumor formation and spread.
Curcumin also has been shown to help protect against diabetes, osteoarthritis symptoms, heart disease, certain inflammatory conditions, and eye degeneration. A 2012 study found that it had anti-inflammatory effects on osteoarthritis in dogs, and Texas A&M University recently developed a canine therapy for Uveitis (eye inflammation) that is derived from curcumin.
Proper Care Leads to a Long, Healthy Life
Elevating your dog's immune system by providing a healthy diet of natural foods, snacks, supplements, and food alongside a healthy exercise routine is one of the surest ways to help them live a long, active life.
To ensure the highest quality standards for your dog, we recommend checking labels to see if the natural pet products you purchase are made in an FDA-audited, Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) facility, which requires high-quality production standards. Also, make sure the nutritional snacks and supplements you choose are safe and gentle and can be used in combination with other medications and therapies that your dog may be taking.
Finally, look for nutritional supplements like our Critical Immune Defense for dogs that contain no artificial flavors or colors, and are wheat-free so you know they're safe for canine companions with gluten allergies or grain sensitivities. Our veterinary-formulated blend of four medicinal mushrooms - plus white turmeric root extract - is packed full of key vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and nutrients to provide your dog with optimized immune support!
Disclaimer: Pet Wellness Direct does not intend to provide veterinary advice. We help pet owners to better understand their pets; however, all content on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice, care, diagnosis, or treatment. If you suspect that your pet needs medical assistance, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.