Ideally, we all want our dogs to have a strong, healthy immune system. As you probably know, a dog with a weakened immune system will be susceptible to all sorts of viruses and bacteria that cause infections and illness. But an overactive immune system may cause just as many medical issues. That’s why it’s best to keep your dog’s immune system in balance.
To do so, let’s take a look at how the canine immune system works, the types of issues it can face and how to boost your dog’s immunity.
Understanding Canine Immune System
Just like the humans, dogs employ a variety of organs to help them stay healthy. Their skin and fur protect them from foreign invaders; their liver and kidneys process toxins and waste from their blood; and their lymphatic system cleans cells and transports them throughout the body.
That said, they also have a variety of cells – antibodies – that help protect them. These form in the bone marrow and spread throughout the body when mature. When your dog’s immune system detects an unknown invader or antigen it sends antibodies to fight it off.
The immune systems develops a memory of the different invaders over time, which helps it respond more efficiently. Sometimes, however, the cells can either be weakened or detect issues where there are none. This is usually the result of immune system disorders, which we will talk about next.
Types of Canine Autoimmune Disease
When a dog has an autoimmune disease, the antibodies that are supposed to safeguard him don’t know the difference between dangerous cells and benign ones. The result is an all-out attack that throws your dog’s immune system into overdrive.
Common types of autoimmune diseases in dogs include:
Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis (IMPA)
IMPA occurs when the antibodies from your dog’s immune system bind to the tissues surrounding their movable joints.
According to PetMD, this causes an inflammatory response that produces symptoms of arthritis such as:
- Stiffness in legs
- Decreased range of motion
- Cracking of the joints
- Joint swelling and pain in one or more joints
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA is an immune-mediated disease, meaning the antibodies turn on healthy cells. In this case, they damage the surface of the joints and surrounding cartilage. RA is characterized by inflammation and painful joints.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
When dogs have this form of lupus, specific antibodies in their immune system target proteins throughout their body. Depending on which proteins are being affected, your dog could experience kidney disease, anemia, arthritis, or skin conditions, just to name a few possibilities.
Watch for symptoms of SLE such as:
- Shifting leg lameness (the most common sign)
- Lethargy; depression; loss of appetite
- Increased thirst and water intake; increased urination
- Skin lesions (redness; sores)
- Hair loss
- Oral ulcerations; pale gums
- Thickened/ulcerated foot pads
Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
One of the most common gastrointestinal issues in dogs, IBD happens when your dog’s immune system fights the digestive organs.
These inflammatory cells build up and cause damage to the digestive tract, which bring about unpleasant GI episodes like vomiting, painful bowel movements and diarrhea.
Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMT)
Your dog’s immune system can also attack the blood platelets, keeping the dog’s blood from clotting properly. This can lead to both external bleeding, like a cut that will not scab, or internal bleeding that requires surgery.
How to Boost Your Dog’s Immune System
EcoBalance Immune Support
If you’d like a natural supplement that will boost your dog’s immunity, add ½ scoop of EcoBalance Immune Support for every 10lbs of your dog’s weight to their food daily. The formula will help your dog’s immune system, without any chemicals or negative side effects.
Additionally, you can help your dog stay healthy by following these 3 simple steps:
Step 1. Daily Exercise
Taking your dog out for a daily stroll does more than combat obesity, it also helps cleanse the body and move toxins out of the system. Take a look at the our blog on Walking Your Dog: 10 Tips for an Enjoyable Stroll to get some ideas on healthy and fun walks.
Step 2. Proper Nutrition
The majority of your dog’s immunity lives in the gut so nutrition is a big component of a healthy immune system.
Make sure that you are feeding your dog healthy, complete meals. Don’t let your dog skimp on antioxidants and crucial vitamins and minerals such as:
- Vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, E, and B6
- Zinc; selenium
- Linoleic acid
Step 3. Massages and Belly Rubs
Massaging your dog stimulates lymphocyte production and function. As Dogsaholic says, “Massage inhibits fluid accumulation and the possibility of forming an infection.” Plus the bonding and relaxation your dog will enjoy are also good for the health of his immune system.
Add these healthy tips to your dog’s routine to keep his immune system working in mint condition. If you suspect your dog of having an autoimmune disease, speak with your vet as soon as possible to start testing and treatment options. With your care and help, your dog can live a happy full life, even if they are managing symptoms of an immune disease.