How to Boost Your Dog’s Immune System

With the winter weather watering down both our gardens and our coats, the sniffles and coughs aren’t too far behind. While humans battle those pesky viruses and bacterial infections with vitamin C and other immunity boosters, their canines might be suffering the sniffly woes of the rain as well.

H1N1 continues to affect humans and recent reports show it possibly spreading to the four-legged and furry. Other diseases like canine influenza or parvovirus are dangerous diseases to stay cautious of. Maintaining your dog’s optimum immunity will help him fend these diseases off. For this reason, pups might benefit from an immunity boost just as much as their humans. “As with any disease caused by a virus, treatment is largely supportive. Good animal care practices and nutrition assist dogs in mounting an effective immune response,” says the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Not unlike humans, dogs with strong immune systems are those that have the proper balance of a good diet, exercise, and supplements. Your dog’s immune system protects her from any number of ailments that can affect various parts of her body: skin, nose, teeth, ears, eyes, etc. If you’d like to give Fido’s immune system a bit of a boost, consider taking the following steps to ensure a happy, healthy hound:

  • NUTRITION: Many commercial dog food brands have been called the “junk food of dog food.” Yes, humans can eat a quarter-pounder with cheese or a bag of Doritos and continue to function, but their health and energy levels are severely compromised by the lack of proper vitamins and minerals. The same is true for dogs.

Take a close look at your dog food label and do your homework about the right ingredients for your dog’s best nutrition. Look into a high quality food and consider an all-natural diet that’s human-grade and free of artificial preservatives and hormones. Your dog’s diet should be a nutritious source of vitamins and minerals, not filler.

  • HYDRATION: You’ve heard it from your own doctor when you’re ill (drink lots of liquids), so it may come as no surprise that being well-hydrated with clean water will help your dog’s immune system and overall health. Make sure that your dog’s bowl is cleaned out with soap and water every time you change his water. Always make sure that he has a fresh bowl of water.

Also note that your dog is drinking a sufficient amount of water. If he’s not, that might be a sign that something is off-kilter and that you may need to take him in to see the vet.

  • EXERCISE: Not only does vigorous exercise help promote strong physical health, but it also helps reduce stress and anxiety in dogs. Chronic stress can play a role in a lowered immune system and exercise can help relieve your dog’s anxiety. A great rule of thumb for exercising intensely for the both of you, is bike leashing your dog and start biking.

If you’ve recently adopted or rescued a dog from a shelter they may suffer from stress induced from a previous traumatic experience. Try to find out as much about your pup’s history as possible so you can take the proper measures. But, just like with any dog, exercise will make a world of difference.

Don’t let the rainy weather deter you either. Try some indoor activities to keep your pup panting along. A fit dog is a healthy dog.

  • VITAMINS & SUPPLEMENTS: Dogs with compromised immune systems gain a tremendous amount from a good multivitamin and from supportive supplements.

Taylor Truitt, DVM and CVA, says that “A dog with a daily active lifestyle can benefit from a multivitamin to help make sure that its muscles stay strong, eyes stay clear, and his coat stays glossy.” Infused with vitamins A, C, and E, i Love Dogs’ multivitamin with green tea and reishi is a great source of healthy support for your pooch. Another supplement you should consider for your dog is reishi. Truitt says, “The reishi mushroom has amazing capabilities to help promote and strengthen the immune system, to help prevent and treat cancer, to promote liver health, to scavenge free radicals, and overall provide longevity and well-being.”

Reishi will give your dog that extra immunity boost that he needs for a lifetime of good health.

  • WELLNESS CHECKS: Healthy humans get wellness checks yearly, and your dog deserves no less. Stay on top of your dog’s health before he gets so ill that it severely affects his immune system. Make sure to arrange your dog’s annual exam with his veterinarian. Visiting the vet annually will help you detect the onset of any problems early on.
  • VACCINATIONS: Be sure that you’ve aided your dog’s immune system by providing him with the proper defenses. Stay up-to-date on your dog’s vaccination record and ensure that everything is current.Their vaccinations may make a world of difference even if there’s no current vaccine for a particular disease. Previous to the introduction of the canine influenza vaccine, the AVMA strongly recommended vaccination even to help determine if your dog may have canine influenza.

“Vaccination against other pathogens causing respiratory disease… may help prevent more common respiratory pathogens from becoming secondary infections in a respiratory tract already compromised by influenza infection. In addition, knowing that dogs are vaccinated against these pathogens may help… distinguish canine influenza from other respiratory diseases,” reports the AVMA. Knowing your dog’s vaccination record might be useful in the long run.

  • PREVENTION: Keep things clean. Just like with human communicable diseases, it’s important to wash your hands often when handling your dog or after having visited with other dogs (friends, dog park, or elsewhere). This will help reduce the chances of spreading germs, whether it’s your dog that is carrying the disease or another dog.

You should hold your doggie day care, vet’s office, or boarding kennel to the same standards. Make sure you ask about their procedures for keeping diseases from spreading. The AVMA says, “Protocols should be established for thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting cages, bowls, and other surfaces between uses. Employees should wash their hands with soap and water (or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are unavailable) before and after handling each dog; after coming into contact with a dog’s saliva, urine, feces, or blood; after cleaning cages; and upon arriving at and before leaving the facility.”

If you’re adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue, make sure to ask the same questions about their facilities before bringing your pup home. Also, as always, take your new pet in to see a veterinarian to make sure they’re in good health.

Continue to practice these preventative measures and watch as your pup becomes the healthiest dog on the block!

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