There has been an incredible focus on immune health recently, which may have got you thinking about how best to care for your dog. Here's our advice.
The canine immune system is as complex and important as ours, working in a number of different ways to defend against bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, toxins and free radicals.
When their immune system is not in optimal condition, they're much more at risk of illness - but the good news is that simple things can make a huge difference, including regular exercise, reducing stress (to which our dogs are highly susceptible) and taking good care with their diet.
Dog diet and hydration
Throughout their life, ensuring your dog receives all the vitamins and minerals they need is hugely important for their immune system.
Vitamins and minerals for dogs
As they get older, our dogs don't absorb and utilise certain nutrients as well as they used to, so a multivitamin can prove invaluable. In particular, ensure they're getting enough antioxidants (which work to combat free radicals, which if left unchecked are harmful for our dogs' cells).
Some of the most well-known immune nutrients include vitamins A, B6, C and E, as well as zinc and selenium. These can be topped up using a multivitamin or by consciously incorporating more antioxidant-rich food sources, particularly fruit and vegetables, into their diet. Take care to avoid foods like grapes, raisins, avocados, onion, garlic, wild mushrooms, rhubarb and unripe tomatoes, all of which are toxic to dogs.
Make sure your dog's diet includes a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as plenty of water.
An important mention should also go to omega 3, which is beneficial for reducing inflammation in the body (which plays a role in a number of diseases and health conditions).
In addition, make sure your dog always has fresh water, which helps to flush out toxins and harmful substances from your dog's body. Although their need varies with age, breed and activity level, as well as with climate, in general dogs require 12 ounces of water per 10 pounds of body weight per day.
Dog gut health
The gastrointestinal system makes up around 70% of the canine immune system, so it's vital that we help to keep their gut healthy with plenty of 'friendly' bacteria (that can outcompete 'bad' bacteria and maintain balance in the gut). Stress, antibiotics, increasing age and stomach upsets can all deplete the body's friendly bacteria, so almost all pets will benefit from the support of a probiotic.
Stress relief for dogs
Our dogs are hugely susceptible to stress, whether it's a change of routine, loud noises, new people or an unpleasant interaction with another animal. Just as stress negatively impacts our immune system, it does the same for our dog.
Ensure your pet enjoys plenty of exercise and time outdoors, with a regular schedule of mealtimes, naps and opportunities for play.