Support Your Dog's Immune System?

22nd February 2024

Your dog's body is a sophisticated arrangement of organs, cells and proteins all tasked with safeguarding the body from infections. So what is the best way to support this unique system?

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How Does a Dog's Immune System Work?

A dog's immune system is a complex network of specialised cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against harmful pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. This defence mechanism is crucial for the overall health and well-being of dogs, as it helps prevent infections and diseases from taking hold. One of the key components of the immune system in dogs is the white blood cells, which include various types such as neutrophils, lymphocytes, and macrophages. These cells play different roles in identifying and destroying pathogens, as well as in regulating the immune response.

To make this a little easier to understand, let's think of a dog's immune system as a shield defending a castle from invaders. This shield is made up of many parts, like different layers working together to keep the castle safe from enemies.

The first layer of this shield, called the innate immune system, is like the castle walls and gates. It's always on guard, providing general protection against any intruders that try to get in. This includes things like the skin and mucous membranes, which act as physical barriers, as well as specialized cells like neutrophils and macrophages that act as the guards, ready to engulf and destroy any invaders.

However, if a crafty enemy manages to sneak past the walls, the adaptive immune system steps up. This part of the shield is like having specialized knights and archers who are trained to recognize specific enemies. When they spot an intruder, they create custom-made weapons, called antibodies, to target and eliminate them. These knights and archers are the B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes, working together to keep the castle safe.

As the battle rages on, the castle's defenders gain experience. They remember each enemy they've fought before, creating a record of their tactics. These memories are like the memory cells of the immune system. So, if the same enemy tries to attack again, the shield is ready. It can mount a quicker and more effective defense, using the knowledge gained from past battles to protect the castle from harm.

In this way, the shield of the immune system works tirelessly to keep the castle (the dog's body) safe from invaders (pathogens), ensuring the health and well-being of the kingdom (the dog) inside.

Why is a Healthy Diet Important For Your Dog?

Much like humans, approximately 70% of the immune system is located in the gut. This area is not only responsible for digesting food and absorbing nutrients but it also houses a wide range of immune cells and beneficial bacteria which is crucial for immune function.

A balanced and nutritious diet ensures that dogs receive the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients needed to support a robust immune system. For example, vitamins such as A, C, and E are known for their immune-boosting properties, while minerals like zinc and selenium are essential for the proper functioning of immune cells. Even though dogs can synthesise their own vitamin C, including this in the diet will be beneficial due to environmental toxins which are abundant in our modern world and can deplete vitamin C in the body.

If we feed our dogs with highly processed food that includes non-natural ingredients, this can have a detrimental effect on the gut and therefore the immune system. A lot of ultra-processed foods contain ingredients that disrupt the microbiome and put a strain on the other systems of the body.

Another reason why it is important is, 95% of serotonin is produced and housed in the gut. Serotonin is an incredibly important neurotransmitter that affects mood and behaviour. Having a diet that is low in nutrition and inclusive of refined sugars and carbs can reduce serotonin production and result in a low mood including depression and anxiety. This goes to show that 'you are what you eat' is a very true phrase!

How Can I Support My Dog's Immune System?

As pet parents, we are responsible for ensuring our dogs live the healthiest and happiest life possible. Supporting the immune system is crucial and you can do this by:

  • A fresh, natural diet - Providing your dog with a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods is crucial for optimal immune function. This includes high-quality proteins, such as lean meats or fish, and various superfoods including fruits and vegetables. These foods offer essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that bolster the immune system. Avoiding artificial additives, preservatives, and fillers commonly found in commercial dog foods can also benefit your dog's health. Paleo Ridge Ra
  • Reducing environmental toxins - Dogs, like humans, can be exposed to various environmental toxins that can weaken the immune system. This includes pesticides, herbicides, household cleaners, and even some common plants that can be toxic to pets. Minimizing your dog's exposure to these toxins by using pet-safe cleaning products, avoiding areas treated with chemicals, and carefully selecting plants in your home and yard can go a long way in supporting their immune health. Check out Ingenious Probiotics for a cleaning range that is non-toxic to pets and also includes healthy bacteria to ensure the environment is kept healthy too.
  • Regular Exercise - Being active is incredibly important for healthy blood flow and oxygen transport as well as the lymphatic system. Being active helps rid the body of toxins and keeps all systems working in good order.
  • Hygiene - Keeping your dog clean and also living in a clean environment is very important for health. When feeding a fresh, raw dog food diet, it's important to follow our hygiene instructions. Reducing exposure to dusty and unclean environments can help boost your dog's immune system.

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