Proper nutrition for dogs is important for a range of reasons, including healthy immune function. Fats and protein, in addition to vitamins and minerals, all contribute towards healthy growth and development, helping to keep your dog feeling strong and healthy.
A well-balanced diet is essential for any dog, but some pets require a little extra care. These can include dogs with compromised immune systems (either due to short-term illnesses or long-term conditions such as cancer), or immunocompromised senior dogs or puppies.
Does your dog need an immune system boost?
Wondering how to boost dogs’ immune systems, in many cases this can be achieved through maintaining a well-rounded diet including all the essential nutrients a dog needs.
If your dog shows any of the following symptoms, this may be due to immune deficiency:
- Difficulty with walking
- Skin lesions
- Loss of appetite
- Recurrent illnesses
If you notice any of these signs, take them to a vet as soon as possible. Treatments for immune deficiency in dogs can range from dietary adjustments to medications but may also include supplements.
When giving your dog supplements, do so under the advice of a veterinarian: giving the wrong supplements, supplements that are not vet-approved, or over-supplementing may risk creating additional health issues.
Do not use supplements designed for humans (these may be unsafe for your pet) and always check the label for certification by a veterinary nutritionist or a trusted organization such as the NASC (National Animal Supplement Council).
Some research suggests approximately 70% to 90% of the immune system is based in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, making a healthy gut essential for immunity. Your vet may recommend using a probiotic to support gut health.
Probiotics prevent developing pathogenic (or “bad” bacteria) while promoting “good bacteria” to fight off illness and infection.
Your vet also might recommend taking omega-3 supplements to support gut health. (Take care with dosage to avoid loose stools).
A diet of high-quality ingredients, including animal protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals is the best way to strengthen your dog’s immune system, along with access to fresh drinking water. Your vet may also advise dietary changes for your dog, including some fruits and vegetables, such as:
- Sweet potato
Fruits or vegetables should only be given in small amounts as an occasional treat. Boil or steam any vegetables you give to your dog, without any additional oils or flavorings, and chop into bite-size portions to prevent choking.
Be aware that some human foods (such as chocolate, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners) can make dogs very unwell and may even be lethal. If you are in any doubt about food safety for your dog, ask your vet for advice.
Other tips to boost your dog’s immune system
Fat can contribute to inflammation in the body, weakening the immune system and contributing to overall poor health, so give your dog as much exercise as they need for their breed and size in order for them to stay fit and healthy.
From a mind-body perspective, issues like anxiety can create inflammation, so regular exercise and play can also help to prevent this by boosting your dog’s mood while helping you both to bond, petting your dog may not only boost their immune system but yours as well.