BOOST YOUR GREYHOUND’S IMMUNE SYSTEM
As we found out last week, an overactive immune system can cause an allergic reaction to a benign substance in your Greyhound. A malfunctioning immune system in dogs can open the door to a host of diseases, such as infection, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and cancer. Keeping your dog’s immune system balanced can help reduce these risks, and contribute to overall health and well-being, according to veterinary experts. Boosting immunity is one of the best ways to fight disease in dogs. Fortunately, there are some simple, natural steps you can take to strengthen your dog’s immune system.
Dogs, like humans, build their immunity through a variety of things: genes, exercise, good environmental conditions, and socialization. Food also plays an important part, so let’s start with the basics.
Your dog’s diet is a cornerstone of good immune health. The gut contains about 70 percent of our immune system. The gut also contains our microbiome––the collection of hundreds of species of bacteria—and the bacterial balance in the microbiome is heavily influenced by diet.
Dogs are designed to eat a moist, meat-based diet, yet many kibbles are comprised of at least 40 percent starch. Unfortunately, starches promote inflammation. Vegetable and legume starches, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and lentils, are not as acidifying and inflammatory as starchy grains. Many vets recommend a grain-free, low starch diet that also includes some fresh meat and vegetables.
Here are ten fresh foods that will help to boost your hound’s immune system, and can comprise up to 10% of your dog’s daily food intake:
- Bell Peppers
- MCT Oil
For details on how these foods help and how to feed them, see 10 Foods to Fight Disease in Dogs
A diet containing a reasonable amount of good fiber and live bacteria from fresh foods is important to maintaining a healthy microbiome. But nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best way to ensure your dog is eating an optimal immune-strengthening diet is to ask your veterinarian. Your vet knows your dog and can recommend the best diet for their situation.
Also see 10 Super Foods
Many humans use probiotics on a daily basis, and we are now learning they may be the secret to proper health for our dogs, as well. Probiotics are the same as, or very similar to, the good bacteria housed in the digestive tract and are necessary for a balanced system. If the system has too many bad bacteria and not enough good, it can cause all kinds of problems, including diarrhea, constipation, weight gain, skin irritations, and even urinary tract issues.
Outside of the digestive tract, probiotics also play a role in immune system health. Based on recent research, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) approves probiotics for dogs as both a digestive and immune system support supplement. Probiotics come in a variety of forms, including powders, liquids, and sprays. However, only use products that are formulated for dogs, as their gut flora are different from a human's. A good one is Purina’s FLORTIFLORA, but there are many others.
Give your dog essential fatty acid supplements. Essential fatty acids, such as omega 3s, will improve your dog’s immune system function and decrease inflammation. The easiest way to get extra essential fatty acids into your dog’s diet is to give fish oil or krill oil supplements. There are a variety of supplements sold at pet stores that are made specifically for dogs. Follow dosing recommendations, as overdosing is possible and may cause diarrhea.
Incorporate vitamin supplements to boost vitamins A, C, and E. These vitamins can improve your dog's immune system, strengthen its health, and provide necessary antioxidants. Give your dog a vitamin supplement formulated for dogs to increase its absorbtion of these vital nutrients. Ask your vet which supplements are right for your dog, and read your dog's food labels to see if they contain these important vitamins. Also, the presence of a National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal on a supplement label is a good indicator that the product you’re buying is genuine.
Colostrum is the clear, yellowish, pre-milk fluid produced from mother’s milk the first 72 hours after birth. It provides both immune and growth factors, which are essential for the health and development of the newborn. Colostrum contains a substance called proline-rich-polypeptide (PRP), which is an immunomodulator. This means it boosts an underactive immune system and balances an overactive one. These immune factors help the body fight against viruses, bacteria, yeast, and fungi. Plus, colostrum contains antibodies agsinst harmful bacteria, including E coli, Salmonella, Rotavirus, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, H pylori, and Cryptosporidia.
You’ll want colostrum from grass-fed dairy cows with 40% immunoglobulins (or antibodies). Give your pup colostrum
- If he’s not maintaining weight
- When he’s suffering from allergy symptoms
- If he’s prone to infections
Colostrum for dogs comes in powder, in capsule form, tablets or chews. Follow the instructions on the label for dosing recommendations. Several allergy formulations available contain colostrum, probiotics, essential fatty acids and vitamins, or some combination of these. Your vet can help you choose if you find the choices overwhelming.
There are a variety of medicinal mushrooms that have immune boosting properties, and combinations of several medicinal mushrooms seem to work best. The major medicinal mushrooms include:
Reishi, which has anti-cancer and immune-enhancing effects. This is due to its mucopolysaccharides. These are complex sugars that the body incorporates into its cell membranes. This “coating” makes cells resistant to viruses and harmful bacteria.
Maitake mushrooms have a very high concentration of a unique polysaccharide compound called beta-1,6-glucan. Researchers consider this beta-glucan to be one of the most powerful immune stimulants known. Overall, maitake protects healthy cells from becoming cancerous. This helps prevent the spread of cancer (metastasis) and slows or stops the growth of tumors.
Turkey Tail mushroom was approved by the FDA for a trial in cancer patients. Turkey tail mushroom is rich in beta-glucans and also in Polysaccharide K (PSK). This active compound is approved to treat cancer in Japan and few side effects have been reported. A 2012 Penn State study reviewed turkey tail use in dogs with hemangiosarcoma. Dogs treated with PSK from turkey tail mushrooms had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with this common cancer.
And there are other immune-boosting mushrooms. These include:
Ideally, you’ll want to give your dog a blend of several of them. For more information on canine medicinal mushrooms, see Top 5 Medicinal Mushrooms for Dogs.
Keeping your dog fit is one of the best ways to boost immune health and promote overall well-being. Dogs are naturally active, so adequate exercise and play are important to their health. Aim for at least an hour of play or activity per day. Activities to try with your hound include chasing, playing, doing scent work, and learning tricks. Giving your dog time to be active every day will help keep him at a healthy weight, reduce disease, and improve his immune system health. An hour of exercise doesn’t mean that your dog has to be running constantly for an hour. It just means that you should play with them and have them move for that amount of time.
You might be interested in this article: The Importance of Playtime for Your Greyhound
Manage your pup's stress levels. Stress can weaken your dog's immune system, making it more susceptible to illness and parasites. Fortunately, you can help manage your dog's stress to keep his immune system strong. Here are some ways to reduce your dog’s stress, in addition to exercise:
- Try not to change his routine or living arrangements. When you need to change something, try to introduce the change slowly, and give your dog lots of attention and praise.
- Keep your dog away from loud noises, and comfort him during thunderstorms or fireworks.
- Slowly introduce new people or pets.
- Spend lots of time with your dog.
One of the best ways you can boost your dog’s immune system is by keeping vaccinations up to date. Vaccinations give your dog’s body the ability to resist common infections, many of which would otherwise be fatal. Talk to your vet about which vaccines are right for your dog but the most common and useful vaccines include:
- Distemper (Panleukopenia)
Give your dog preventative treatments for common pests. Preventative treatments for common pests, such as fleas, are a key part of helping your dog’s immune system function at its best. Your vet may suggest a prescription-strength product to use but there are flea and tick medications available at all pet stores and online pet supply retailers. If you prevent infestations, it will allow the dog’s immune system to function better when it has to fight off illnesses or diseases that can’t be prevented.
If you are wary of chemical flea treatments, try this natural aloe cedarwood spray:
- 4 TBSP gentle skin astringent (like witch hazel)
- 4 TBSP aloe vera juice
- 10 drops lavender essential oil*
- 20 drops cedarwood oil*
Mix all in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray on your dog’s coat once a day.
*Note on essential oils for pets: use care with essential oils – be sure to only use ones that are deemed safe and dilute appropriately
Some people believe that dog allergies are becoming more common due to the increasing prevalence of synthetic chemicals around the home and in food. These can affect the dog’s natural balance and lead to allergic reactions and suppressed immune system. By using a multi-pronged approach to managing allergies, including these tips for boosting the immune system, dogs with allergies can still live healthy, happy lives, and treatment options are always evolving.
You might also be interested in Managing Your Greyhound's Allergies