As humans, we do a lot of things to keep ourselves healthy. We visit the doctor regularly, eat balanced meals, take vitamins, sleep well and much more. But as dog owners, it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re bolstering our pups’ immune systems, too.
Our dogs can’t just tell us when they’re feeling tired or under the weather, and by the time we notice symptoms, it’s probably too late to prevent an illness. Fortunately, you can keep your dog’s immune system in great shape throughout its life by doing a few simple things each day.
Keeping your pup healthy and happy
Your dog’s immune system is the barrier between it and potentially dangerous illnesses. When the immune system is supported, your dog will have a reduced risk of developing a bacterial or viral infection, hosting parasites or succumbing to more serious diseases and even cancer.
The immune system uses a complex network of cells to identify, target and fight off harmful invaders. Even when pathogens are too strong to be completely eliminated by the immune system before they do harm, a strong immune system may help reduce the symptoms your dog experiences and the severity of the illness.
Maintaining a healthy immune system also helps reduce the risk for chronic inflammation. Although some inflammation is a product of a well-functioning immune system, consistent inflammation may put your dog at risk for a variety of diseases like diabetes.
And, keeping your dog’s immune system in tip-top shape will help it feel great day in and day out. When your dog is as healthy as it can be, it will have more energy, be more playful and happy and live much more comfortably, which is the most a dog owner can truly ask for!
How to bolster your dog’s immune system
Aside from the normal puppy care like making sure your dog has plenty of water, eats regularly, gets adequate rest and sees the vet at least once a year, there are a few extra things you can do to ensure that its immune system is adequately supported.
Inflammation is at the root of many types of diseases and can be dangerous to your dog’s health. Giving your dog omega-3 fatty acid supplements like fish oil helps reduce the amount of harmful inflammation throughout the body and keep the immune system functioning well.
These supplements are great for all dogs, but they are also particularly beneficial for dogs suffering from conditions like arthritis or stiffness.
The intestines are where the majority of the immune system is located, alongside a host of microbiota like healthy bacteria (also known as probiotics). This microbiome can be disrupted by stress, poor diet, illness or antibiotics, and the immune system can suffer as a result.
Providing your dog with probiotics in supplement form can help reintroduce good bacteria to the gut and help the gut microbiome flourish, supporting the immune system and overall body and digestive health in the process. Make sure you’re using specially formulated probiotics for dogs, since your dog’s microbiome is not structured the same as a human’s.
Healthy, well-rounded diet
Feeding your dog a balanced diet that contains all the necessary vitamins and nutrients is imperative for maintaining its health. Without adequate amounts of these nutrients, certain bodily systems will begin to malfunction, including the immune system.
Antioxidants are particularly important to add into your dog’s daily diet, since these compounds are known to benefit the immune system and help prevent cell damage throughout the body.
Speak with your dog’s veterinarian to determine the best diet for its body composition and to find the right food with a selection of natural ingredients and no harmful additives or fillers.
Exercise is not only a source of fun for dogs or a way to keep them lean and fit. It is also extremely important for maintaining a healthy immune system and overall health.
Running, jumping and playing does help reduce stored fat, which can hamper the immune system and lead to disease. But exercise can also mobilize oxygen and nutrients to parts of the body that need it most, as well as flush out toxins, reduce stress and make your pup happier!
Immunity is integral to a happy life
Without a supported immune system, your dog would likely become very sick. It’s necessary to care for the immune system throughout all the stages of your dog’s life—but particularly as a puppy and a senior dog, when the immune system is not fully developed or very strong.
With the right combination of healthy living, eating and supplementation, your pup’s immune system should be well-equipped to protect it against the nastiest of illnesses.