Just as you need a healthy immune system, so does your
pet. It is a dirty world out there. Your pet is stressed
by heat and cold, by pollution and treated water, by fleas and
mosquitos. Even a dog that lives mostly in your
house still has to go outside to eliminate and take walks.
Maybe they can't control their environment, but you can take
steps to ensure they have a healthy immune system to survive
it. Not too surprising is the list of supplements - the same
ones you need.
Building a Healthy Immune System
by Dr. Larry Siegler
The immune system is an intricate network of specialized
tissues, organs, cells, and hormones. The lymph system and
lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, and thymus gland all play a
role, as do lymphocytes (specialized white blood cells),
antibodies, and complement proteins.
There are two main types of immunity; innate and acquired.
Innate immunity is the body's built in system of resisting
disease including the skin, lining of the gastrointestinal
tract, mucous secretions, and stomach acid.
Acquired or adaptive immunity involves the immune system's
further defenses against invaders created as the body is
exposed to different pathogens through exposure, illness or
vaccination. The immune system develops a memory of each
disease it fights and is able to quickly recognize and defend
against the pathogen the next time it appears.
Symptoms of a weakened immune system include skin
infections, recurring parasitic infections, and initially mild
infections or illnesses that progress into serious health
issues because the body cannot build a strong enough response
to defend itself. For cats, frequent upper respiratory
infections are also indicative of a weak immune system.
Building a Healthy Immune System
Diet is always the first line of defense. As you have heard
me say before in my other articles, diet is the foundation of
health. If your companion is consuming highly processed food
that provides only minimal nutrition and includes any number of
toxins such as chemical preservatives, food dyes, additives and
fillers, his immune system is being depleted daily just to cope
with his diet. Fresh food is the first step in building a
strong immune system. Many people wait until their animal has a
serious or chronic illness such as cancer, kidney disease or
allergies (to name a few), to finally change the diet.
Prevention is so much kinder and immeasurably more effective.
Please see the articles about What You Need to Know About Your
Pet's Food and All About Raw Food for more information about
proper diet. Feeding a varied diet that includes as much fresh
food as possible does take a bit more effort than scooping
kibble out of a bag, but it is t
One of the benefits of a healthy diet is a healthy
gastrointestinal tract. If the digestive tract is weakened by
inflammation from allergies or inflammatory bowel disease or
other digestive disorders, even the nutrients in a healthy diet
are harder to process and absorb. Healing and maintaining the
digestive tract is vital to overall health and immunity.
Digestive enzymes, probiotics and essential fatty acids all
play a role in gastrointestinal health and proper
Exercise must also be mentioned for its role in helping
build and maintain a strong immune system. Moderate exercise
has been shown to improve immune factors in humans and
Weight control is also key - overweight animals are much
more susceptible to chronic and acute diseases and infections.
Proper diet AND exercise are needed to help with weight
A good quality daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement is
a simple way to help bolster the immune system. I like to
alternate the vitamin supplements I use for my cats and dogs to
provide a more varied source of extra nutrition. For instance,
I often give a regular multi-vitamin at one meal and a "greens"
supplement at another meal. Please see the article The
Importance of Daily Supplements for Your Companion for more
Antioxidants help prevent oxidation,
help increase immune function, and possibly decrease the risk
of infection and cancer. Antioxidants exist as vitamins,
minerals and other compounds in foods. They act as scavengers,
helping to prevent cell and tissue damage by destroying free
radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules and
fragments of molecules that can damage the body at the cellular
level, leaving the body susceptible to cancer, heart disease,
and many other degenerative diseases.
Vitamins A, C and E are the most commonly known antioxidants.
Vitamin A is found in the liver and other animal tissues. It is
abundant in fish liver oils such as cod liver oil. Carotene is
a precursor to vitamin A found in plant material. Dogs can
convert carotene to vitamin A by way of an enzyme found in the
wall of the intestine. Cats, however, do not convert carotene
well and must receive adequate vitamin A from animal sourc
Vitamin C is the most abundant
water-soluble antioxidant in the body and is manufactured in
the liver and kidneys of dogs and cats. It is available from
fresh or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is
especially good at combating free-radical formation caused by
Vitamin E is the most abundant
fat-soluble antioxidant in the body. It is present in many
foods including vegetable oils, cereal grains, greens, liver
and eggs. It is particularly helpful in protecting against
oxidation, especially in fatty tissues.
Other powerful antioxidants include green tea, selenium,
Co-Enzyme Q10, bioflavonoids, N-acetylcysteine,
proanthocyanidins (pycnogenol) typically derived from grape
seed extract or pine bark, quercetin, soy isoflavones, and
Herbs, Mushrooms and Nutraceuticals
Cat's Claw (Una de gato) has
anti-oxidant and immune enhancing properties as well as
anti-hypertensive effects (lowers blood pressure & supports
circulation). Cat's Claw is derived from a vine found in South
America. It is often used in combination with other herbs. It
can be useful in treating a wide variety of illness including
parasites, colitis, gastritis, leaky gut, tumors and for acute
conditions such as viral and respiratory infections.
Chinese Herbs are available in a variety of combinations for
immune support. Astragalus is one of the more commonly found
Chinese herbs in immune formulations. Selecting the proper
Chinese herbal formula is not always straightforward since a
variety of conditions need to be considered before deciding on
the best combination, so sometimes the guidance of a trained
holistic veterinarian is important.
Green tea contains polyphenols which
target cancer cells for destruction and helps eliminate free
radicals. It also supports the production of a protein that
protects healthy cells.
Circumin, or turmeric root, has very
powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It has a
wide range of uses for both chronic and acute illnesses and is
an excellent cancer preventative.
Echinacea stimulates the immune system
to fight bacterial and viral infections. It is a good choice
for acute conditions but is not recommended for continual long
term use. Echinacea works best when given as a preventative -
to help an animal avoid contracting an illness or infection
they may be exposed to.
Mushrooms such as Maitake, Reishi and
Shitake stimulate T-helper cells (which are integral to a
strong immune response) and powerfully boost the overall immune
system. Cordyseps is a Chinese mushroom with antioxidant,
antiviral and cancer fighting properties.
Colostrum is the first milk produced
by mothers. Most colostrum commercially available is from cows.
It has many immune boosting properties including factors that
support T-helper cells. It may also play a role in the
metabolism of essential fatty acids. Useful for acute and
chronic disease including autoimmune disorders.
This is by no means a complete list of immune support herbs
and supplements, but it is includes of the many of the most
common of those used for general immune support. Again,
prevention is the best course, but should your companion fall
ill extra support for the immune system through nutrition,
herbs and supplements can give her the upper hand and aid in
her speedy recovery.
Article courtesy of Only Natural
You may click here to view the
selection of immune support supplements available at Only
Natural Pet Store.