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Health & Nutrition

Best Immune System Booster for Dogs: 8 Dog Health Tips

February 19, 2024 - 16 minute read by The Team at Dr. Harvey's

3 Recovered 3 Recovered

A dog’s immune system is responsible for protecting against various illnesses. Many pet parents wonder how to increase immunity in dogs. Explore our guide for eight of the best immune system boosters for dogs that are completely natural.

How Does a Dog’s Immune System Work?

A dog’s immune system is very similar to a human’s. It runs throughout a dog’s body and includes:

  • White blood cells, which detect and protect against infections

  • Antibodies, which are proteins that attach to antigens like viruses and bacteria and remove them from the body

  • Bone marrow, which produces blood cells

  • The thymus, which turns white blood cells into T cells that destroy infected cells

Your dog’s immune system is also connected to other systems like the digestive, urinary, and respiratory systems.

The immune system isn’t limited to the inside of a dog’s body. A dog’s fur, skin, and nails are all part of the immune system. They keep out pathogens, which is why it’s important to clean out any open wounds on your companion.

Immune systems get stronger by exposure to and healing from various illnesses and infections. That’s because the immune system will “remember” how to beat a specific illness from previous exposure.

How Does an Autoimmune Disease Affect a Dog’s Immune System?

A dog lying on a bed

An autoimmune disease affects a dog’s immune system by making it hyperactive. Essentially, this means a dog’s immune system can’t tell the difference between foreign invaders and healthy cells doing their business—and ends up attacking both.

An autoimmune disease is like a business with too many overeager employees. They’re so eager that they don’t take their time and make many mistakes.

These mistakes, or symptoms, can take the form of:

  • Bruising
  • Digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Fevers
  • Hair loss
  • Increased heart rate
  • Inflammation
  • Itchy skin
  • Lesions/blisters
  • Pain
  • Swelling of joints

How Do You Reverse Autoimmune Disease in Dogs?

At the moment, it’s not possible to reverse an autoimmune disease in dogs, though some autoimmune diseases can go into remission.

Remission can happen naturally or with the help of immunosuppressants, which are drugs that inhibit the immune system, so it’s not as active. The only problem is that the medication must be taken continuously, making your dog more vulnerable to illness.

On the bright side, you can control autoimmune disease symptoms in dogs without immunosuppressants with some lifestyle changes—especially a healthier diet.

What Causes a Weak Immune System in Dogs

A dog can also have an underactive immune system. Before discussing how to support a dog’s immune system, it’s helpful to understand what can weaken this system. Various factors can play a role in immunity, such as:

  • Age: Interestingly, puppies and older adult dogs have weakened immune systems for similar reasons. Puppies are new to the world, so their immune systems have not had time to develop, while the immune systems of older dogs may decline over time.

  • Common Allergies: Allergies can cause the immune system to flare up and mount a response to a perceived danger, the same way it would if it was fighting off an actual threat—like an infection. The flaring up of the immune system associated with allergies can cause your dog a lot of pain and discomfort.

  • Excess stress: Changes to a dog’s environment can cause dogs to feel stressed. So can boredom, overstimulation, and separation anxiety. This stress can take a toll on their body, weakening the immune system.

  • Medications: Some medications suppress the immune system or can cause a weakened immune system if used for long periods of time. It’s best to do your own research on the medications you’re giving your pet to understand their potential side effects.

  • Poor diet: Nutrition plays a significant role in the overall functionality of the canine immune system. Feeding highly processed foods, for example, can cause a weakened immune system, as they do not provide the appropriate nutrients your dog needs to thrive.

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Signs of a Weakened Immune System in Dogs

A dog and a cat lying on a couch

A weak immune system can show up in a variety of ways. Some signs may point to a specific condition, while others may indicate a more general issue with your companion’s diet, lifestyle, or health.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, we advise you to reach out to your holistic vet:

  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • General weakness
  • Itchy skin
  • Joint pain
  • Lesions
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

How Do You Treat an Immune Deficiency in Dogs?

Ideally, if your dog has an immune deficiency, you want to minimize the chances of your furry friend getting sick. Immune deficiency means the immune system isn’t able to fight off illness as well as a healthy dog.

Going back to the business analogy, being immune deficient means the business is constantly understaffed, and little can get done.

Maintaining good overall health through a healthy diet, exercise, and good hygiene can help reduce your dog’s likelihood of getting sick. But you can also increase immunity in dogs with the right diet, supplements, and lifestyle.

8 Best Immune System Boosters for Dogs

Here are eight ways you can support your dog’s immune system.

1. Feed the Right Foods

A dog and a person eating from a bowl of food

As mentioned before, a poor diet can cause immune system problems. A healthy diet can improve immune system function and ensure your dog is getting everything they need to thrive. Some great diet staples include:

  • Bananas
  • Beef
  • Bell peppers
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Fish
  • Mushroom
  • Poultry
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potatoes

Quality dog food will include some of these ingredients and be grain-free.

What Herbs Are Good for Canine Immune Systems?

If you want to add more flavor and nutrition to your dog’s meals, use these herbs—they’re great for dogs’ immune systems and offer a variety of other benefits. They can also be used in topical ointments.

  • Aloe vera: Soothes the skin and digestive system.

  • Calendula: Acts as an antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal remedy.

  • Dandelion root: Cleanses the liver and is full of prebiotic fiber.

  • Echinacea: Aids in the production of white blood cells, which help fight infections/illnesses.

  • Ginger: Helps with nausea and reduces oxidative stress.

  • Turmeric: Assists with pain and overall health through powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

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2. Weight Management

An easy way to increase immunity in dogs is to manage their weight. Being overweight puts more strain on the immune system and makes your dog more vulnerable to illnesses. Helping your pup shed excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight benefits its overall well-being and immune system.

If your dog is underweight, that too can cause weakness. Providing appropriate whole foods, additional vitamins and minerals, as well as good fats—including omega-3 fatty acids—can help your dog reach their optimal weight.

3. Exercise

A person squatting next to a dog

Weight management and exercise go hand in hand, which is why it’s next on the list. Exercising aids in weight management, releasing endorphins, strengthening the immune system, and reducing stress. Taking your dog for walks throughout the day is a great way to keep them active!

4. Massage

What if we told you that petting (or massaging) provides your dog’s immune system with a tremendous boost? Gently kneading and rubbing your dog’s muscles and coat activates the lymphatic system and promotes relaxation and healing. There are also known health benefits to rubbing your dog’s ears. Time to schedule a massage session with your companion!

5. Regular Baths

A dog being held by a person

We know some dogs would rather do just about anything over getting a bath, but it’s vital to maintain canine hygiene. Think about where dogs walk, what they sniff, and what they put in their mouths when you take your eyes off them for one second. There are plenty of opportunities for your pup to get exposed to bacteria or viruses that could make them sick.

Luckily, dogs don’t require daily baths, as excessive washing can strip the skin of its natural oils. Most dogs only need a bath about once a month.

6. Clean Toys and Bowls

Along with keeping your pup’s body clean, make sure their toys and bowls for food and water are also clean. Use warm water and mild, animal-safe soap to clean these items daily.

7. Less Stress

Since stress affects the immune system, look for ways to reduce your dog’s stress level. For example:

  • Create a safe place where they can go when new people come to visit.
  • Stick to routines as much as possible.
  • Introduce new people or animals slowly.
  • Reassure them of their safety and your love in new situations.
  • Make traveling as comfortable as possible.

8. Probiotics and Supplements

In some cases, regardless of your efforts, your dog’s immune system is still vulnerable. In this situation, supplementation can be extremely beneficial to boost the immune system. Probiotics and prebiotics can often improve gut health or what is known as the microbiome.

Probiotics and prebiotics, such as inulin, contain good bacteria that help restore the balance of bacteria in the digestive system. This balance is vital because of the close link between the immune and digestive systems.

Fish oil is another beneficial supplement that helps your dog’s immune system and reduces inflammation. Additionally, it improves brain function and skin health.

Other supplements that can help the immune system include multivitamins and healing mushrooms.

Do Immune Supplements Work for Dogs?

Yes, immune supplements can work for dogs—as long as they have quality ingredients. You also need to remember that a supplement is not an end-all-be-all solution. You still need to provide essentials like a healthy diet and exercise to keep your dog happy and healthy.

You can think of supplements as a form of dog immune support. Whether the supplement is full of anti-inflammatory ingredients or bursting with antioxidants, it can give that extra immune boost your dog needs.

What to Look for in Immune Supplements for Your Dog

The pet supplement market is filled with an overwhelming amount of options—and not all of them are good. As a pet parent, you have to be careful with the supplements you give your furry friend. It goes without saying that you should only give your dog supplements designed for dogs—not ones designed for humans.

When picking out a supplement, look at the ingredients. A quality supplement will have ingredients that you recognize, and when you look up unrecognizable ingredients, you find they come from natural sources. You don’t want to expose your dog to excess chemicals, which can irritate the immune system more.

You should also only choose supplements with the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Quality Seal. NASC is a group that promotes animal well-being and holds manufacturers accountable for providing safe health supplements.

The organization works with state, federal, and international governments to create fair legislation and regulatory environments for the manufacturer and the consumer.

Having a NASC seal shows the manufacturer:

  • Has a quality control manual in place
  • Follows strict labeling guidelines
  • Has a place to report/complain about any negative side effects
  • Has specific warnings about ingredients recommended by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and the NASC Scientific Advisory Committee
  • Participates in annual training done by NASC
  • Passes random product testing by an independent lab

Premium Supplements to Support Your Dog's Immune System

Two dogs sitting at a table

As you can see, finding the right supplements and probiotics can be difficult. Here are some of our dog immune support products that help meet a dog’s health needs.

Solaris

This supplement comes with two formulas—one for the morning and one for the evening. Both help boost a dog’s immune system by reducing oxidative stress. Each contains powerful organic healing mushrooms, whole foods and herbs.

Based on your pup’s weight, use the following dosage:

  • 3–18 pounds: 1 scoop
  • 19–45 pounds: 2 scoops
  • 46–80 pounds: 3 scoops
  • 81–125 pounds: 4 scoops

Emune-Boost

This holistic organic supplement features a blend of immune-boosting ingredients like flaxseed, turmeric, and a variety of different roots. The amount of Emune-Boost powder to give your dog daily depends on its weight:

  • 2–20 pounds: 1 scoop
  • 21–50 pounds: 2 scoops
  • 51–95 pounds: 3 scoops
  • 96–150 pounds: 4 scoops

Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement

This supplement is full of whole-food ingredients teeming with different vitamins and minerals. With ingredients like spinach, chamomile, thyme, and peppermint, our Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement can be given daily to help your dog look and feel their best.

Here’s how much to give based on weight:

  • 2–20 pounds: 1 scoop
  • 21–50 pounds: 2 scoops
  • 51–95 pounds: 3 scoops
  • 96–150 pounds: 4 scoops

Health and Shine

A woman pouring a bowl of food

Health and Shine is wild-caught fish oil that assists with immune system maintenance while improving a dog’s skin, coat, heart, and joint health. Health and Shine also contains several antioxidants.

For every 20 pounds of weight, you give one capsule, which you can mix with your dog’s food.

Or use our Health and Shine liquid formulas. Our omega-3 formula combines mackerel oil, sardine oil, herring oil, and anchovy oil. We also have Health and Shine Salmon and Krill Oil for a different taste.

We recommend alternating between these two formulas.

Use Dr. Harvey’s Immune System Boosters for Dogs to Keep Them Happy and Healthy

While keeping your companion healthy takes some effort, it’s certainly worth it for the years of unconditional love you receive. Good news for pet parents everywhere: Dr. Harvey’s strives to make it a little easier to maintain your pup’s health. Boosting your dog’s immune system is critical to long-term good health.

By feeding whole foods and removing chemicals and preservatives from their diet, you will see your dog regain and maintain a strong immune system.

Explore health supplements now for a happier, healthier companion.

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