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How I Strengthen My Dog’s Immune System and So Can You

When a harsh dose of reality in the form of a threat to my dog’s immune system reared its ugly head, my dog mom ‘fight back ‘ mode instinctively kicked in. Rather than giving into a nasty immune system disease, here’s how I learned to strengthen my dog’s immune system and so can you.

How to boost dog immune system

Canine Immune System 101: Just The Facts

A dog’s immune system acts as a gatekeeper for his entire body. When a threat comes knocking in the form of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, it is the job of the healthy immune system to ward them off and get rid of them before inflicting harm. In an article for petMD, Dr. Donna Raditic, an American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) diplomate, shared, “When other cells are aging or functioning abnormally—such as a cancer cell reproducing too rapidly—the immune system attempts to step in and maintain proper physiological function and balance.”

Imagine a network of computers. The network consists of wires and signals being sent out and received 24/7/365. In this way, the immune system is a network that, per the Merck Veterinary Manual, consists of white blood cells, antibodies, and other substances that fight both infection and reject foreign invaders. Beyond the basics, the immune system also contains the thymus gland and bone marrow, which are areas that produce white blood cells. Organs including the spleen, lymph nodes, and liver function as a place for immune system cells to hang out, collect, and like a network of computers with anti-virus software, work together to illicit an immune system response.

The most well-known components of the canine immune system are in the dog’s circulating immune system, the blood and lymph systems.

Consider that with all of its intricacies and how hard a dog’s body works to keep it functioning properly, we owe it to our dogs to help them maintain a strong immune system so that his body is better prepared to fight off illnesses. This is how I learned to strengthen my dog’s immune system and so can you.

Kisses from Dex

The One Danger That Nearly Killed My Dog

In the fall of 2017, my dog was acting spunky, happy, eating and drinking, and had a vet check not long before that. We noticed a splotchiness on his gums and some bleeding in that area. He also had some inner ear flap mottling. After rushing him to the emergency veterinary hospital, meeting with the team of internists, and a near week of hospitalization, the cause of what nearly killed my dog and took his platelets down to ZERO (yes, zero) was a nasty four-letter word: TICK!

As a result of a tick bite, my dog acquired an autoimmune disease called immune mediated thrombocytopenia. The Internal Medicine veterinarian who treated Dexter shared it can rear its ugly head after sitting in bone marrow. Thank Dog, Dexter survived and is in remission, which leads me to this blog post. There are things I learned to strengthen my dog’s immune system. Of course, I do not keep good data and research like this to myself, so here we go. See how many of these surprise you.

Remember, having a strong immune system is no guarantee that your dog will stay healthy. A healthy immune system, however, helps him beat the odds against getting sick and should he get an ailment or illness, he is more equipped to fight it off. I firmly believe our fast action coupled with my dog’s diet and supplements contributed to his ability to fight IMT last year. Keep up with veterinary checkups. If something seems amiss, be sure to act on your gut. Don’t wait.

vet visit
At the emergency vet, receiving our IMT diagnosis.

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Let the Sun Shine With Solaris

My friends at Dr. Harvey’s have a new supplement out that is designed to support your dog’s immune system. For those unfamiliar, Dr. Harvey’s products are free of preservatives, dyes, artificial ingredients or chemicals, and are made in the United States. In doing research for my dog’s immune system and this blog post, I recalled that milk thistle helps liver function. Additionally, other herbs, when used properly, may help boost your dog’s ability to fight disease. Many herbs can act as antioxidants, and that’s a key goal of Dr. Harvey’s Solaris. It is more than a vitamin; it’s a safe, all-natural whole food supplement. I received one box of Solaris, which contains a morning container (Sunrise) and an evening container (Sunset).  You sprinkle the proper amount of scoops on the dog’s food twice a day accordingly and that’s it. You sit back and let the medicinal mushrooms and healing herbs work to boost your dog’s immune system.

At Dexter’s weight he gets two scoops of Sunrise in the morning and two scoops of Sunset in the evening with his dinner. I feel good knowing I don’t have to add a bunch of supplements to his food and that he can take this with the few other things he gets.

According to Dr. Harvey’s, Solaris contains ingredients that may be helpful in the treatment of some cancers. Always check with your dog’s veterinarian before adding any new supplements.

Dr Harvey's Solaris

Massage Your Dog

One of the easiest ways to keep your dog’s immune system in check is to give your pooch a good rubdown/massage. You need not be a professional masseuse to do this, as you would simply rub your dog in the way he most enjoys. For my Cocker Spaniel, he loves his legs rubbed, under his armpits, the back of his neck, and his tummy scritches. This works because massage has been proven to increase lymphocyte numbers and to enhance lymphocyte function, which are all a part of the immune system. The icing on the cake is that YOUR immune system is likely going to be positively affected by massaging your dog, as studies show that people who have pets are gifted with a whole array of health benefits.

CLICK HERE: ===> Learn how to best massage your dog.

Fish Oils: Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Readers of this blog will know we are fans of quality omega 3 fatty acids. There are many types of fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are important fatty acids for both people and dogs because they cannot be made in the body. I’ve had both my Cockers on an Omega-3 fatty acid for close to 25 years. It’s worked for us and my dogs always look good and their coats feel good.

In the evening, I sprinkle one gel cap of Health and Shine from Dr. Harvey’s on my dog’s food. For the immune system, it may help with heart health and circulation along with join stiffness and other inflammation throughout the dog’s body! You give one of these capsules per day in the dog’s food per 20 pounds of body weight. As a bonus, omega 3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation, which is a precursor to many diseases.

Dog fish oil capsules

Don’t Wait for Weight Control

It’s a topic that sends chills up the spine of dog parents everywhere: Fat pets. No one wants to admit their dog is overweight, but someone has to approach the topic. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reveals that 57.9% of cats and 52.7% of dogs are overweight or obese. That’s astounding. Many veterinarians don’t approach the sensitive topic with their clients because they fear repercussions in the form of losing a client. No one wants to hear that their dog could afford to lose weight.

I was mortified when I found out my dog was a few pounds overweight. We slowly and surely made changes to help our food-begging Cocker just say no to extra calories. You cannot take weight off a dog the way you would in a person: In fact, both should be slow and steady. Dogs who are overweight are actually putting stress on their immune system and its ability to ward off disease, just like their human counterparts.

The Best Food For Your Dog

Everyone these days says they have the “best food for your dog” and the lovely pooch running through a meadow on the bag of kibble makes it so. No, no, and more no! If there is one thing that I have learned in a lifetime of dog parenting and well over a dozen years as a dog writer it is this: Dogs really do not need starches. In most commercial dry dog foods, the sheer volume of starch is alarming.

The folks at Whole Dog Journal hit the nail on the head, folks: “Dogs have no nutritional requirement for dietary carbohydrates. They can get everything they need from a diet that contains only protein and fat. Energy metabolism in the dog can be based on fat oxidation and the breakdown of protein to produce glucose. There are two main reasons why we feed carbs to dogs. The first reason is because we can. Dogs can utilize just about anything we feed them; their digestive tracts are extremely versatile. The second reason is economic; fat and protein sources are much more expensive than carbohydrates.”

The best food for your dog is the one that works for him. For me, that means I am not feeding kibble. It’s that whole when we know better, we do better mantra. Here’s the catch, though: What your dog eats is one of the biggest factors in regulating the health of his immune system. In an article on the immune system on petMD, Dr. Susan Wynn, an ACVN diplomate, shared, “The gut contains about 70 percent of your immune system. The gut also contains your microbiome–the collection of hundreds of species of bacteria—and the bacterial balance in the microbiome is heavily influenced by the diet.”

So why mess with the gut? Do for the gut what it needs to function and be happy. Immune system support means gut support. BIG TIME.

For snacks in between meals, Dexter’s treat obsession is Le Dogue Bites made of freeze-dried meat that looks and smells oh so good. Here’s Dex and his girlfriend, Coco Chanel Bella, indulging on this wonderful snack. As with all snacks, use moderation and portion control.

Say No To Chemical Pest Preventatives

Fleas and ticks can be safely prevented without the use of harmful chemicals. A healthy gut and a healthy body is less likely to attract fleas and ticks. A woman in my neighborhood has a Poodle who is 13 and never had a tick or flea issue. The dog wears a spritz of an all-natural repellent like Dr. Harvey’s Gentle Herbal Protection Spray. The dog is in good shape, eats healthy, gets play sessions and walks, and most of all, his mom says he is not stressed. It sounds funny to say “a dog is not stressed,” but there is a science to this. Dogs who are stressed are working their immune systems needlessly hard.

I will never again use a chemical-based spot on for my dogs for a host of reasons, all of which are safety issues that involve my dog’s health and overall well being. Chemicals, whether applied to the skin or sprayed onto a lawn, can wreak havoc on both people and pets. I don’t want my dog engaging in anything that can compromise his immune system.

strengthen dog's immune system with natural flea repellant

The Body’s Largest Organ

Like people, the skin is the largest organ of a dog. Merck’s Vet Manual says the skin provides a protective barrier against the environment, regulates temperature, and gives your dog its sense of touch. Depending on the species and age, the skin may be 12 to 24 percent of a dog’s body weight. WOW! Skin is exposed to everything: From the environmental elements to internal mechanisms that affect it. If you bathe too little or too much, you may disrupt the skin’s natural immune function and remove oils and acids the skin needs to stay healthy. Brushing your dog daily is a good idea. Keeping the skin clean without overstimulating is key as well. The Omega 3’s as noted above help to keep the skin functioning at its optimal best, as does adequate diet and nutrition.

dog bath
Dexter sez, “No comment!”

Water, Water Everywhere

There are statistics and studies galore, but the bottom line is this: Because water is the most important nutrient to a dog, clean, fresh water should be available at all times. Not all water is created equal. You want your dog to consume fresh, clean water because water is needed but also because it helps to flush the kidneys and overall digestion. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a jaunt in the neighborhood, a trek to the dog park, or a trip in the car, please on a stack of dog biscuits, please take water with you on the go. Your dog will thank you for it. I’ve been taking water with me for my dog for my entire adult life. I wish I had a dollar for every time a stranger’s dog stopped by and wanted a drink from our dog’s water bowl. I’d be rich!

Be careful when adding too many supplements to your dog’s diet and vitamin regimen. Always talk to your dog’s veterinarian for complete guidance. We are a happy Dr. Harvey’s family and our dog’s remission is stable. That has our tails wagging!

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Don’t Stop Now

Learn more health and wellness information and keep your dog in tip top shape below:

Summer Dangers

How to Get Your Dog To Drink More Water

Join the Dog Birthday Club and Giveaway With Prizes

Did we miss anything? How are you protecting your dog’s immune system? Bark at us in the comments below.

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  1. OH wow. I’ve never heard of this before. It makes sense, though. If we take supplements to help us stay our best, why wouldn’t they make them for dogs?

    1. That is such a good point, Stacie. My dog and I are both on supplements. Dr. Harvey’s is pawsome!

  2. Thank you Carol for sharing this wealth of information to help improve our dog’s immune system. The importance can never be understated. I really appreciate you sharing what happened to your Dexter and the beneficial supplements you used to help Dexter overcome the dreadful tick bite. I already give my dogs the Le Dogue bites and they love, love, love them. I’m going to purchase the Solaris and Omega 3’s. You’ve always steered your fans in the right direction, and me and my dogs thank you.

  3. This is such great advice. I have my dog on supplements and plan to also add a multi-vitamin into her diet because she isn’t eating as much dog food as she used to. My dog actually asks for fresh water every time. She will not drink out of the bowl if it’s been sitting there. She gets a fresh bowl of water every time she wants a drink. My dog has food allergies so I definitely watch what food I give her and I have also gotten her to lose a few pounds and I’m so happy b/c she looks so much better and I know it will let her live longer. She also needed to lose weight for her little legs. She has arthitis and also had surgery on her leg years ago so she needs the weight off. I try to keep her exercising even at 12 years old. I give her massages but not often enough. I need to start doing that more often. All of this is great advice! I highly recommend doing everything Carol says!

  4. All the things I didn’t realize dog owners had to think about! haha I was never allowed to have a pet when I was a kid & I’m afraid I’ve turned into “that parent” 😉

  5. I have two dogs and I didn’t know I could help their immune system like this. What a great way to keep them healthy. 🙂

  6. Anything that can harm your pet is oh so scary! Making sure their immune system can handle anything is so important.

  7. These are such great tips, I need to start doing this for our dogs. I’ve never heard of Dr. Harvey’s before and will have to check it out now!

  8. Our last dog put on a few pounds. This time we’re monitoring our puppy’s food intake so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  9. I don’t know that I have ever given my dog’s immune system that much thought. I do definitely buy him food that is meat based, not grain.

  10. Loved this article, Dogs immune system is really important. When your dog is healthy he can go on any kind of adventures with you without any danger.

  11. Great Blog! I love to travel with my dog and I’ve found this awesome backpack and it has been really helpful on many of my journey.

  12. Great article! I love that people are out there talking about non kibble alternatives to feeding our dogs. Many folks think that grain free kibble means less carbs, but that’s a misnomer. Many grain free kibbles are actually higher in starches than grain based kibble. The legumes, potato, and sweet potato used in these grain free kibbles are starch used to bind the kibble together. They add calories and feed yeast and provide food to cancer cells.

    Thanks for the introduction to Solaris. Dr Harvey’s is a wonderful company. I love that they use whole food based supplements. No synthetic vitamins for us. Whole food and whole food supplements have made a HUGE difference to my dogs health. She’s even lost that extra sub-cutaneous fat layer that’s been hanging around too long!

    1. That is so wonderful, Kim. We’ve made some serious modifications to Dexter’s health plan and Dr. Harvey’s is a huge part of it. I love the chatter around non-kibble, also. Carbs are really not good for dogs in the long run and really should be used in moderation.

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