Facts about Your Pet's Immune System
Your pet's immune system is incredibly important to overall health. While we usually take our own immune system for granted, we do even more so with our pets. With good nutrition, exercise, and socialization, your pet's immune system will usually take care of itself. But a few facts about your pet's immune system may surprise you!
Fact: Your Pet's Immune System is Directly Related to Nutrition
The immune system is to the body like the SUV is to the automobile world: a big fuel hog. Only instead of refined petroleum, your pet's immune system requires proper nutrition in the form of complex carbohydrates, proteins, dietary fats, plenty of water, vitamins, and minerals. You can usually tell if a pet isn't getting the nutrition it needs by the health of its coat: if it's dull and coarse, chances are that your pet isn't getting the protein it needs.
Fact: Excessive Stress Can Weaken Your Pet's Immune System
Pets, just like humans, are more vulnerable to infection when they are chronically stressed. This is because stress causes vast physiological changes in the body, requiring more energy - energy usually reserved for the immune system. Common sources of pet stress include:
- Strange noises and places
- Inconsistent handling or training
- Unusual human behavior
- Crowded areas
- Too many pets in same area (infringing on territory)
- Inadequate mental stimulation
Fact: Pets Can Have Allergies Too
Dogs and cats can be allergic to triggers like mold spores, pollen, dust, grass, trees, and most commonly fleas, with the flea saliva being the actual allergen. However, animals with allergies don't sneeze or experience watery eyes like humans. Instead they develop dermatitis, which is inflammation of the skin. Pets experiencing allergies will most likely have itchy, red skin, sometimes with patches of fur missing due to scratching and biting.
Fact: Pets Need Exercise to Keep Their Immune System Strong
Exercise shifts some bodily processes like muscle respiration into high gear, while suppressing others such as digestion. With moderate, regular exercise, certain parts of the pet immune system are strengthened. Natural Killer (NK) cells are important for killing cancerous or virally-infected cells. Their ability to kill becomes more potent during moderate exercise. Neutrophils are also important in the pet immune system, responsible for digesting all sorts of pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Exercise causes the bone marrow to produce more neutrophils and increases the ability of existing neutrophils to ingest pathogens.
Fact: A Warm, Dry Nose Isn't Always a Sign of Sickness in Dogs
A dog's nose may go from cool and moist to warm and not-so-moist all in the course of a single day. These changes in temperature and moisture are all perfectly normal. The changes that usually indicate infection or sickness are changes in texture (skin becomes flaky or cracked), color, discharge, or contact sensitivity.
Photo Credit: Lance McCord