How Does It Work?
THE immune system stands guard against infection from a variety of things including bacteria, viruses and fungi. When it mounts a response to anything it regards as foreign in the body it produces a number of different effects. As the infecting cells are killed off, so are many of the immune system's fighting cells. Inflammation is also a part of the process of fighting infection. Inflammation causes heat and sometimes the body's temperature is raised in order to kill off the invaders. During the course of this, dead cells have to be carted away and disposed of.
Every time something enters the body or is present in the body in numbers too high to be tolerated, the immune system goes in to action. As you can see there is a lot of activity that has to happen at a time like this. This happens to a greater or lesser degree daily.
Signs of a depleted immune system
1. Recurrent infections that return straight after any antibiotics are finished.
2. Allergies and skin problems.
3. A chronic infection or problem such as runny nose that never clears. This could be an infection or an allergy.
4. Great susceptibility to infestation (fleas etc).
What debilitates the immune system?
1. When the immune system is healthy and strong, it can recognize and deal with infection before and without any symptoms being felt. So the immune system is then strictly a backroom boy. But, at times where the dog is run-down or has been exposed to things that debilitate it's immune system, infective agents can multiply fast and then the immune system is in for a big struggle. This is when symptoms become obvious to the dog and indeed the owner usually also.
2. Sometimes the infection can be a very strong bacterial infection that is difficult for even the best immune system to deal with quietly.
3. A series of infections can further debilitate the immune system.
4. Unfortunately both vaccinations and antibiotics tend to have a dampening effect on the immune system.
5. Diet allergies such as a grain allergy. Allergies activate the immune system constantly and run it down.
6. Exposure to sprays and various chemicals can cause allergies also.
7. Prolonged stress and distress.
Herbs for the immune system
All the same herbs you would use on humans to build the immune system can be used with dogs. It's just the dosages that may be different.
There are many different herbs that have an effect on the immune system one way or another. Echinacea, Andrographis, Olive leaves and Astragalus build the immune system up when it is debilitated.
Garlic which can simply be added to the food a couple of times a week has a positive effect on the immune system but also provides some anti-viral and anti-bacterial activity of its own.
Siberian Ginseng, Licorice and Withania all work on the adrenal glands to reduce stress, thus taking pressure off the immune system.
Liver herbs such as Dandelion, Milk Thistle and Schisandra help the liver to detoxify itself from artificial chemicals. A healthy liver is necessary for a healthy immune system.
Lymphatic herbs such as Pokeroot assist the process of elimination of waste through the lymphatic system. This means efficient disposal of all the cells killed off by the immune versus the infection battles.
A medical herbalist chooses herbs for an immune formula for a dog based on the causes of the immune deficiency. There is so much that can be done to build up your dog's immune system.
To see readers' questions answered by Pat Hunter go to the next page.