What if you could boost your dog's immune system according to what you feed? Why would you want to if your dog is healthy?
Ebenezer Stayaraj, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist for the Nestle Research Center, St. Louis, outlined some recent findings in canine nutrition at the AKC Canine Health Foundation National Parent Club Canine Health Conference.
"Over 65 per cent of the body's immune cells are located in the gut, making it the largest immune organ. What we eat or feed our pets interacts with a significant part of the immune system."
Malnutrition was the original focus of the science of nutrition. Today, few dogs or humans have malnutrition. They are more likely to have overnutrition and stress. Even healthy animals are exposed to stress, fatigue and disease. Hormones produced during stress have a dampening response on the immune system. But those at special risk are the young and the old. Newborn puppies have a 50 per cent lower ability to mount an immune response than does an adult animal. In old dogs, the bone marrow has a declining ability to produce antibody cells, and other cellular changes dampen the immune response. Lower immune responses mean the animal is less able to fight disease and less able to respond to vaccines. Vaccines are designed to boost the immune system against specific diseases, but a damaged immune system can't produce an adequate immunity. Over 65 per cent of the body's immune cells are located in the gut, making it the largest immune organ. What we eat or feed our pets interacts with a significant part of the immune system.
Armed with this knowledge, scientists tested how adding bovine colostrums to dogs' diets can change immune response. They tested sled dogs under stress from strenuous exercise. By testing the dogs' feces before and after they were vaccinated, they determined that adding bovine colostrums to the diet increases the dogs' immune response over dogs not given the colostrum.
This process is not the same as absorption of canine colostrum. In the first 48 hours of life, a puppy's gut can absorb the large molecules of canine colostrum. After that time, the gut matures enough to screen out these particles. For years, it was assumed that bovine colostrum would suffer the same fate, but the study proved that it is absorbed and is beneficial. As a result of this research, Purina began adding bovine colostrum to its puppy foods.
Work continues to find foods effective against certain immune disorders. If successful, a local inflammation like inflammatory bowel disease could be treated with a food that causes a local response, rather than suppressing the entire immune system with steroids.
Dr. Satyari explained that bovine colostrum is sensitive to heat, so it must be added to manufactured pet food after the extrusion process. Freeze-dried bovine colostrum is readily available through health food stores and pet product companies.