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Contact a vet if you're thinking of giving your dog a colostrum supplement.

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How do I boost my dog's immune system?

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

From diet to vaccinations, there are all sorts of ways to improve a dog's immune system.

Helping your dog's immune system improve is a great thing a dog owner can do. There are several ways to do this but there are also some that are not effective at all – despite lots of people believing that they are. Here we cover how best to go about this for your pet.

What is the best food to build up a dog’s immune system?

A nutritionally balanced complete dog food should be designed with all the nutrients your dog needs to keep healthy. If you would like to give your pet additional supplements, speak to a vet about what options are appropriate. There are a huge range of products available and some of these have more evidence to support their suggested benefits.

Can I use colostrum as a dog immune-system booster supplement?

When talking about colostrum, it is important to differentiate between natural colostrum and colostrum supplements, although neither of these will boost the immune system in an adult dog.

Natural colostrum is produced by a female as the first milk for newborns. It is high in antibodies to help provide ‘passive immunity’ to puppies against certain diseases. It also contains other nutrients, such as vitamin A and iron. After a couple of days, puppies lose the ability to absorb antibodies across their digestive tract into their bloodstream. Therefore, adult dogs are unable to absorb antibodies, and colostrum will not boost their immune system in this way. The digestive processes will instead break down the antibodies.

Colostrum supplements are products that are usually based on cow colostrum and do not contain the same antibodies as colostrum from a female dog, but they may be of some nutritional value.

What is the best immune booster for dogs?

You can help boost your dog’s immune system by ensuring that their vaccinations are up-to-date. Vaccinations work by triggering a natural immune response within the body to a certain disease. This greatly reduces the risk of your dog becoming ill from the diseases that they are vaccinated against.

When should I see a vet about boosting a dog's immune system?

If you are concerned about your dog’s immune system for any reason (for example, because your dog is regularly unwell or are known to be immunocompromised), you should book a vet appointment to address this issue. The vet will be able to examine your pet and ask questions to help identify any underlying illnesses.

What should I ask a vet about colostrum and dogs?

You can contact a vet for advice on any aspect of your pet’s health, including supplementation. If you think your pet may have a health condition and are wondering about using a colostrum supplement, visit a vet first for their opinion. The prognosis of many illnesses can be greatly improved by early veterinary intervention.

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