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Building Strong Immunity in Pets

The immune system is crucial to overall pet health

A pet’s first line of defense against disease is its immune system. The immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to defend the body against infectious organisms, such as viruses, fungi and bacteria.

To maintain a properly functioning and effective immune system, optimal nutrition is required. Using nutritional solutions that can help strengthen the immune system and support its development, its functions and any associated cells can help modulate the immune response against specific pathogens or foreign invaders.

What are immunonutrients?

Immunonutrients are part of a newer field of study called immunonutrition, which studies the link between nutrition, immunity and the inflammatory response. Immunonutrients can help strengthen your pet’s immune system to increase their disease resistance and overall health.

A few examples of immunonutrients in pet food include nucleotides, amino acids, trace minerals and even gut-supportive compounds, such as pro- and prebiotics.

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What can immunonutrients help my pet with?

  • Nucleotides can assist in the healthy growth and development of puppies and kittens.
  • Amino acids are required for building strong tissues, from your dog’s nails, skin and coat to your cat’s eyes and heart health.  
  • Although they make up only a small percentage of your pet’s overall diet, trace minerals play a role in virtually every system in the body. Zinc and copper help maintain ideal skin and coat condition, as well as immune health. Selenium is considered nature’s powerhouse antioxidant, while manganese enhances important cells involved in the immune response.  
  • Probiotics and prebiotics promote a healthy gut microbiome. Since a minimum of 80% of the immune system resides in the digestive tract, nutrients that reinforce the function of the intestinal lining help prevent disease.

Signs of a weakened immune system in pets

  • Lethargy
  • Skin infections or lesions
  • Poor coat and skin condition
  • Low appetite
  • Prone to infections
  • Overall weakness
  • Diarrhea

Optimizing your pet’s immune system

Utilize the following tips to keep your dog or cat feeling their best:

  • Feed them the best food possible. Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” — and this statement doesn’t just apply to people! Choosing high-quality nutrition is the number-one thing you can do to help improve your pet’s overall health. Consult a veterinarian if you have questions about choosing the best food for your pet.
  • Encourage exercise and play. It’s important to remember that our domestic pets evolved from wild ancestors and that many dogs were bred with a working purpose — meaning they were born to be active! Whatever your housing situation, be creative with toys, habitats, etc., and get your pet out for walks as often as possible — even cats can be leash-trained and may enjoy exploring the outdoors.  
  • Supplement your pets with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants as appropriate. Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, organic selenium and others, provide additional benefits for your pet, including decreased inflammation and improved immune responses. Read your feed labels and choose feeds that already contain these nutrients or supplement them as appropriate.  
  • Keep your pet on a regular vaccination and parasite management program. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure! Use flea/tick/heartworm treatment regularly and keep your pets up to date on vaccinations throughout their entire lives. Check with your veterinarian for any regional treatments that may be necessary.