Last month we talked about allergies and food intolerances, their symptoms, tests that can be done by your veterinarian to determine the problem and the different ways your veterinarian might treat the symptoms. We also mentioned the importance of getting to the root cause of the problem or you could find yourself going around in circles just trying to treat the symptoms.
A healthy immune system is your dog’s first line of defense in fighting illness. If your dog’s immune system is compromised and its defenses are down, it can lead to a variety of different health issues. Allergy issues and food intolerances are two of the potential health issues that can result when your dog’s immune system is not in balance.
We are going to talk about what can cause your dog’s immune system to become over active or suppressed and what you can do to bring it back to a healthy balance.
Over vaccinating your dog can create this problem. Vaccinations cause the immune system temporary suppression for 2-3 weeks post vaccination. Repeating vaccinations frequently can put a serious drain on the dog’s system. Additionally, vaccinating too young (under 8 weeks) can also compromise the immune system. Most importantly, when you do vaccinate your dog, make sure it is perfectly healthy. When a dog is sick, their immune system is already vulnerable. Lastly, I avoid vaccinating any dog over 5 years old. Vaccinations can only work when a dog’s immune system is working well and vaccinating when the immune system is down will create further problems.
Stress can also cause immune system problems. Stress can be caused by change of ownership, traveling, weather changes, hormonal issues, anesthesia, and long-term use of certain medications such as antibiotics or steroids. If your dog developed allergy or food intolerance issues or any other illness, think back and try to remember when their symptoms first developed and what might have been going on in their lives in the months preceding when the symptoms.
In order to combat the symptoms and get your dog back on the road to good health, a healthy immune system is needed.
Let’s look as some of the good ways you can achieve this.
Quality nutrition is the most valuable thing you can offer your dog and is the most important element in helping support its immune system! Feed a fresh and varied diet! Rotating protein sources keeps the dog from being on a ‘fixed diet’ of the same ingredients daily. This helps stop the body from becoming ‘accustomed’ to the same food source and developing antibodies to normal substances. It also offers more sources of amino acids (proteins) for better health. Additionally, fresh food, whether raw or lightly cooked, is much easier to digest and for the body to identify. Fresh food is less likely to contain ‘toxins’ or bacteria than packaged and factory prepared foods. A fresh food diet that consists primarily of one protein source, such as chicken, or maybe two protein sources, is not enough of a variety. You want to offer the widest variety of proteins that you can. These would include beef, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, canned fish (mackerel, salmon or sardines) and wild game when it is available.
Mental and physical health is very important for both keeping your dog’s body strong and relieving any stress. While running, swimming and performance training, such as agility and herding, are great choices not all of us are able to do that. But exercise can also be accomplished by offering short, frequent walks, throwing a ball for your dog to chase, playing tug, doing short bouts of clicker training in the house, petting and paying attention to your dog and playing ‘find the treat’ by hiding favorite foods here and there.
Clean Body and Environment
Keep your dog’s skin and coat clean by offering gentle baths weekly. Keep your dog’s environment clean by washing their bedding weekly, keeping floors and rugs vacuumed. Keep their yard clear of debris and make sure piles of leaves are picked up and removed. Debris and leaves can contain mold spores that can be dangerous.
Supplements can also be useful in helping support the immune system. It is important to understand that no supplement or herb can “boost” the immune system, but it can provide support in helping it return to normal.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and in high doses works as an antihistamine. I will give this to ‘bowel tolerance’, which means I slowly increase the dosage daily, until diarrhea occurs and then I back down to the last dose. It is important to make sure the vitamin C also has bioflavonoids as these help increase the effectiveness. We offer Maximum Living Solu-C Power with Bioflavonoids. This high potency buffered vitamin C that contains biofalvonoids and rutin. Bioflavonoids help with the uptake of vitamin c and add to its antioxidant value. This helps support the immune system and fight allergies. Small dogs would get 1/8th teaspoon daily, medium dogs 1/4 teaspoon daily, and large dogs 1/4 teaspoon twice daily.
Vitamin E is also an antioxidant, and helps heal the skin and grow a new coat. I generally give small dogs about 100 IU a day, a medium dog 200 IU and a large dog 400 IU daily.
Vitamin D can help fight autoimmune problems, stop infections faster, and is thought to protect against cancer. I give small dogs about 100 mg, medium dogs 200 mg and large dogs 400 mg. You can also find vitamin D in eggs and canned mackerel, salmon and sardines. The Berte’s Daily Blend contains vitamin D and A, as well as vitamin C and E, in a palatable liver flavored powder.
Vitamin A helps heal wounds and support the immune system. Good food sources for Vitamin A include liver and other organ meats. Plant sources of vitamin A (beta-carotene) are not effective for dogs.
Omega 3 fatty acids are very effective in helping the skin, coat and the immune system. They also reduce inflammation and pain. Only use omega 3 fatty acids from animal based sources, such as fish (salmon, menhaden, sardine, etc). Dogs cannot convert the ALA source found in plant oils. Additionally, plant oils are high in Omega 6 fatty acids which INCREASE inflammation and most fresh foods are already high in this fat. Dogs need more Omega 3 fatty acids to offset the high amounts of Omega 6 already in the diet. Use fish oil capsules rather than bottled oil as oils lose their effectiveness when exposed to heat, light and oxygen. Give one 1000 mg capsule per 10-20 pounds of body weight daily.
Berte’s Immune System Formula is an herbal tincture containing mushroom extract, Astragalus, Echinacea Root, Red Root, Red Clover, Yarrow, Dandelion Root, Boneset and Flower Essences. The combination of herbs helps strengthen a suppressed immune system. This tincture liquid is given in the gum line twice daily.
Tasha's Skin and Hair Support (no longer available, please use Animals’ Apawthecary Spring Tonic instead) is another herbal tincture that can be offered to help support the immune system until the change of diet helps resolve the immune system issue. Nettles is a key ingredient in this product that acts as a natural antihistamine to stop itching. Give twice daily.
Probioticscontain the healthy flora and fauna bacteria in the digestive system that act as a natural yeast fighter and help keep the immune system in balance. When antibiotics are taken, they kill off these healthy bacteria so it is very important to offer probiotics to your dog if they are taking antibiotics. Berte’s Ultra Probiotic Powder is a wonderful probiotic that can be added to your dog’s food twice daily.
Di-Methylglycine is an amino acid that helps support proper immune system response, skin health, glucose metabolism and proper nerve and brain functions. Immuno-DMG is given orally twice daily.
We’ve talked about working on the outside of the dog, the inside of the dog, keeping the dog mentally and physically fit, nutritional supplements to support the immune system and a quality fresh diet with lots of protein variety. While all that we have talked about will produce a healthier dog over time, making these changes will not offer immediate relief. However, applying these changes will do a much better job at addressing the root cause of the allergy or food tolerance issue so healing from the inside out can begin. Antibiotics and steroids address the symptoms, not the cause. Addressing the root cause is important if you eventually want the symptoms to go away . . . for good!
The most important step in addressing your dog’s health and immune system is to feed a diet that is easy to digest, has protein variety, contains bioavailable nutrients and has low plant fiber content. This would include either a raw diet with no carbohydrates added or a home cooked diet that consists of 75% animal protein and 25% low glycemic (low sugar), low fat carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are sugars, so we select either a ‘no carb’ or a low glycemic carbohydrate diet to put less labor on the dog’s digestive tract and remove ’empty’ calories. In a cooked diet, the carbohydrates act as fiber, which is why they are necessary. Carbohydrates are not needed in a raw diet as the bones act as the fiber.
For the raw diet, I would suggest skinless chicken necks, turkey necks (cut up), low fat muscle meats (lean or excess fat trimmed), low fat or non-fat yogurt and no egg yolks. The bone in the raw meaty bones acts as the fiber in the diet. Avoid fatty meats such as lamb, duck and dark meat chicken.
For both diets, start out with small, frequent meals. This puts less stress on the digestive tract to process the food. I would suggest instead of two meals a day, give your dog four smaller meals a day. It generally takes about 6 weeks for the digestive tract to get a good start on healing. Oftentimes, after healing has begun, you can work your way back to two meals per day and begin increasing the fat content.
Your dog may show improvement and then back slide, and then show more improvement. This process can go up and down, but be patient. I do not look for the proof of good health in the dog’s stool, but rather their attitude, coat, skin and weight gain. While they can ‘back slide’ temporarily, they will slowly improve both in health and stool formation over the weeks.
There are some important supplements to add, for EACH meal. These include:
Berte’s Ultra Probiotic Powder. These contain beneficial bacteria, which help restore the natural balance of good bacteria in the gut, and help with digestion and healing.
Animal Based Digestive Enzymes. Berte’s Zymes (editor’s note use FOOD SCIENCE ZYMES contain pancreatin and pancrealipase. These help pre-digest fats in the stomach, before they hit the small intestine, which helps ease digestion and gives better stool formation.
L-Glutamine is an amino acid that helps heal the digestive tract lining. When long-term use of commercial foods have created an inflamed digestive tract lining, l-Glutamine is very beneficial in reducing the inflammation, which is the most important factor to tackle. Give about 500 mg of l-glutamine per 20 lbs of body weight per meal.
If you want to get probiotics, enzymes and amino acids all in one product that also includes GAGs (Glycosaminoglycan), which also help remove inflammation in the digestive tract, and ginger, which helps stop nausea, you can get all of this in Berte’s Digestion Blend. This is a powder that is easy to mix with food and is liver flavored for palatability.
Once the digestive tract lining has healed, you can cut back on the supplements, however, I continue to use them for several months until the healing is complete. As mentioned before, one healing begins, you can slowly move to less frequent meals and you can slowly increase the fat content over several weeks. At that point, I would start to add EPA fish oil capsules at one 1,000 mg capsule per 20 lbs of body weight, and add a good vitamin supplement, such as the Bertes Daily Blend.
All of us at B-Naturals wish you a very, Merry Christmas and a Joyous Holiday Season.
May you enjoy your Holidays with Family, Friends and all your Fur kids!
Merry Christmas to all and we will see you in the New Year.
‘Lil Nikko sends you Holiday wishes from his Toy Box to yours!