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Dog and cat immunity: how to strengthen it [preparations and supplements

How to strengthen your dog's immunity?

Living together under one roof with pets allows them to be promoted to the rank of one of the "family members" and thus enjoy many privileges associated with it.

Generally speaking, it gives the possibility of a longer life through better health care, and thanks to disease symptoms noticed more quickly, it often allows for the implementation of effective therapy at an early stage of the disease.

Pets can enjoy living conditions that other stray animals or those living near the kennel can only dream about.

Thanks to the growing awareness of a wider and wider group of caregivers, more and more people who know about balanced nutrition or supplementation of mineral and vitamin products, many previously common health problems have become history today, which should undoubtedly be pleasing.

After all, each of us would like to stay in good health as long as possible and use all the charms of life with full vitality.

This also applies to our animals, with which we bond and care for them as for other family members.

Therefore, all activities aimed at maintaining the best possible health seem obvious and remain part of a healthy lifestyle.

How often do we people swallow colorful pills, bought on the basis of information provided in advertisements, which we are bombarded from everywhere in order to stay immune and not get sick, especially in the autumn and winter season.

Producers of these products convince us that regular use of their products will provide us with peace and protect against unfavorable conditions outside, guaranteeing the preservation of full health despite extreme weather conditions.

Is it the same for our pets, i.e. dogs and cats??

Can we, through appropriate supplementation, modify the work of the immune system so that our animal does not get sick with all possible diseases??

Or maybe buying such products is pointless?

This is what I will try to describe in the article.

  • The immune system of dogs and cats
  • A comprehensive approach to immune processes
  • Preparations to strengthen immunity
    • Staphylococcal protein A
    • Propionibacterium acnes
    • Serratia marcescens
    • Interferons
  • How to support the immune system?
    • Isoprosine
    • Insulin-like growth factor 1
    • Lactoferrin
  • Lowering immunity in situations of constant stress
    • Beta glucan
    • Lysozym
    • Human drugs
  • Vegetable substances that affect immunity
  • Intestinal flora

The immune system of dogs and cats

The immune system of dogs and cats

We may not realize it on a daily basis, but to stay healthy and enjoy life, we must have a well-functioning immune system.

Being living organisms, mammals do not live in some isolation, but are surrounded by billions of pathogens living in our environment and having constant contact with us.

Many of them, unfortunately, are pathogenic, which does not automatically mean that after contact with them we always get sick.

We have an ally and defender who protects us against infections or infections in the form of a broadly understood the immune system.

Without it, we are unable to function and we would be doomed to certain death.

Generally speaking, we could compare him to a kind of guardian and defender against lurking threats.

The immune system is a group of organs that cooperate with each other, which ensures the efficient functioning of the immune mechanisms.

It is made up of lymphatic organs, lymph vessels, various cells participating in defense reactions, antibodies and cytokines.

It is an extremely complicated system, difficult to describe, even in simplified terms, and has an extremely important and key task to defend the body against diseases by identifying and then eliminating:

  • harmful cells,
  • bacteria,
  • viruses,
  • neoplastic cells.

Therefore, the basic skill is to detect harmful and pathogenic cells, distinguish them from your own, healthy and properly functioning cells.

This task is hampered by the constant variation within microbes, which the immune system must keep up with.

Fortunately, thanks to the phenomenon of the so-called. immune memory the body is able to fight effectively with previously encountered pathogens and react quickly and efficiently to infections that threaten the health of the body.

The immune system protects the living organism on many levels.

The first line of defense is all physical barriers preventing the free penetration of microorganisms into the body.

However, if the pathogen breaks it, it has to face an innate, non-specific and nonspecific but immediate response from the innate immune system.

Another, more complicated element of the immune system is adaptive immune system learning pathogens, as it were, and reacting faster to their presence.

Everything takes place through the immune memory, thanks to which the next reaction with the same pathogen leads to its faster and more efficient elimination.

The immune system must distinguish between its own cells and foreign cells generally known as antigens.

They are the generators of the production of antibodies, i.e. cells that destroy pathogenic microorganisms, which cause a strong immune response.

One of the first and key reactions of the immune system to any infection is a process called inflammation, or inflammation for short.

The external symptom of an inflammatory reaction will be redness and swelling of the affected area, as well as pain and impairment of the function of an organ or tissue.

At the cellular level, it develops as a consequence of the action of eicosanoids (prostaglandins and leukotrienes) and cytokines that are released and produced by damaged cells.

These prostaglandins cause fever, vasodilation, and leukotrienes attract leukocytes, intensifying the fight against infection.

Interleukins are responsible for the communication of cells involved in the attack on pathogens, chemokines are involved in the process of chemotaxis, and interferons in the process of fighting viruses.

Repair processes in damaged tissue always take place after pathogens have been eliminated.

Complement system is, in turn, a complex composed of several dozen proteins present in plasma and body fluids, constituting the innate, humoral mechanism of the non-specific immune response closely cooperating with the specific response.

Its operation is basically activation of the enzymatic cascade and the resulting inflammatory reaction and the broadly understood immune response.

The complement system is therefore involved in the lysis of:

  • bacterial cells (destroying them),
  • viruses,
  • cancer cells,
  • it has a chemotactic effect and activates phagocytosis,
  • participates in the process of opsonization of bacteria, viruses and fungi,
  • removes immune complexes,
  • participates in the activation of the inflammatory reaction.

I am aware that in a short introduction to the immune system I did not exhaust the complexity of the functioning of this system, however, I wanted to make you aware of the extremely complex, multifactorial system that each of us and our animals have, and the end result of its operation is the state of homeostasis in the broad sense that manifests itself in health.

However, do we know how to take care of it to stay in good shape and feel good for a long time?

This is what you can read later in this article.

A comprehensive approach to immune processes

A comprehensive approach to immune processes

Taking care of your own health or the health of a pet animal that is under our care is always a complicated, multifactorial process based on numerous activities that we do not always think about on a daily basis.

It seems obvious that too much stress on the immune system, especially in the long run, will have a very negative impact on its efficiency and work.

What I mean?

First, let's avoid all these stress and discharge factors steroid hormones, which, as we all know, have immunosuppressive effects, i.e. lower immunity.

So let's try, for example, not to go for walks in heavily smoky, dusty places, do not run with dogs on busy roads or streets, or avoid large groups of people and various dogs, where the spread of infectious diseases is greater.

Another important component of the animal's health in the context of the functioning of the immune system is the fight against internal and external parasites by regularly carrying out so-called. deworming.

For the record, each parasite causes its presence decrease in immunity and numerous other health consequences.

Let us take care of a correct, balanced diet adapted to the age and physiological condition of our dog or cat, containing a complete set of vitamins and microelements that affect the functioning of the immune system.

Using the mentioned mechanisms of immune memory, it is worth skilfully vaccinating dogs against infectious diseases that threaten them.

The posture also seems to be in an appropriate condition of the animal by regular and adapted to the physiological state and concomitant diseases (e.g. joints) exercise.

These really very general recommendations apply to both humans and animals.

Preparations to strengthen immunity

Preparations to strengthen immunity

This field of pharmacology has for many years been of particular interest to scientists and medical practitioners who often face questions about the immunity of dogs.

Animal keepers want to know how to improve the work of this system, often reaching for the ubiquitous preparations for humans, also for economic reasons.

Immunotherapy is generally understood as any form of medical activity that changes or modifies the activity of the immune system through the use of products and substances with a documented pharmacological effect.

Depending on the effect of these specifics, we distinguish:

  • immunostimulators, i.e. active substances stimulating immunity,
  • immunomodulators that modify it,
  • immunosuppressants or substances inhibitory immunity in the case of, for example, autoimmune diseases.

We will deal with a group of preparations used for supporting immunity, thus demonstrating action stimulating the work of the immune system in the event of a viral or bacterial disease, or more generally speaking, an infectious disease.

Substances of this type have one main task, which is to restore the proper function and functioning of the immune system heavily burdened with the fight against a given disease by modifying the activity of immunocompetent cells.

Of course, they are recommended in the case of given disease entities, but we must not forget about them also in the context of any stressful situations, such as animal exhibitions or large clusters, staying in a dog hotel, or visiting a different or foreign, previously unknown environment, e.g. stay abroad.

As we all know, many bacteria are pathogenic and cause infection through their presence in the body.

Few, however, realize that thanks to appropriate processing in technological processes leading to inactivation of pathogenic and harmful bacteria, they can become our allies and show immunostimulating properties, and thus have a positive effect on the immune system.

For this type of purpose, we use:

Staphylococcus aureus,

  • Propionibacterium acnes,
  • Serratia marcescens,
  • Eschericha coli,
  • Pasteurelle multocida.

So let's take a look at the most famous ones:

Staphylococcal protein A

It is a polypeptide obtained from the cell wall of Staphylococcus aureus Cowan I.

This protein, by binding with certain IgG class immunoglobulins, activates:

  • complement system,
  • T lymphocytes,
  • NK cells,
  • stimulates the synthesis and release of interferon.

Antitumor activity of this protein has been demonstrated.

Studies have been carried out in patients infected with the leukemia virus of cats with lymphomas, who were administered this protein and found tumor remission, but other results did not confirm this, so further experiments in this direction are required.

Propionibacterium acnes

The preparation contains bacteria inactivated during the freeze-drying process.

It stimulates the increase of macrophage activity, thus leading to the secretion of:

  • cytokines,
  • interferons,
  • enhances the activity of T lymphocytes,
  • enhances the activity of NK cells.

After its use, the production of interleukins, mainly IL1 and IL6, increased.

The preparation containing this active substance is used in the treatment of:

  • infectious rhinotracheitis in dogs,
  • purulent dermatitis along with antibiotic therapy,
  • feline leukemia.

Serratia marcescens

Fragments of DNA and the cell wall of this gram-negative, conditionally anaerobic rod are used as an immunomodulating substance.

It stimulates the macrophages present in the bone marrow to produce IL6, TNF or tumor necrosis factor, IL1, which causes fever and an increase in neutrophils in the blood.

In small animal veterinary medicine, we most often use ready-made medicinal products such as:

  • Zylexis,
  • Biotropin.

Zylexis is a commercial product for non-specific immunomodulation in companion animals.

It is widely used in the treatment of infectious diseases and in any stressful situation leading to decrease in immunity.

It contains inactivated Parapoxvirus ovis which has a documented immunomodulatory effect.

The mechanism of action is based on the stimulation of non-specific immune mechanisms and is manifested by the activation of killer cells, stimulation of lymphocyte proliferation, activation of macrophages and the release of mediators of the immune response and the production of interferon.

The subcutaneous dose for a dog or cat is only 1 ml.

Biotropin is a suspension of inactivated bacterial strains for use in large farm animals.

Nevertheless, sometimes doctors, after informing the owner of the animal, can use it as a supportive treatment in infections of the respiratory system, reproductive system or other diseases of young dogs.

The antigens present in the preparation are first recognized in terms of histocompatibility and then they activate the immune system and stimulate a specific immune response.

The expression of this will be greater activity of phagocytes, lymphocytes and a shorter time of their migration to the focus of inflammation.


Interferons are polypeptides, or low molecular weight proteins, produced by the body's cells in response to viral infections.

They interact with healthy cells in the body by increasing their resistance to viral infections.

They also activate NK cells, maturation of T lymphocytes, enhance the expression of MHC I and II genes, and have anti-cancer properties.

In veterinary medicine, we most often use:

  • human interferon alpha,
  • feline interferon.

INF alpha

INF alpha is one of the three produced by the human body.

This interferon has a strong antiviral activity by influencing replication and inhibiting the formation of new virions.

It is active against many DNA and RNA viruses.

It does not kill viruses, but it inhibits the synthesis of nucleic acids and viral proteins, thus preventing its multiplication in the mammalian cell.

Human interferon can be administered orally to cats even for a long time, which is important for the owner himself.

A classic example of using it is feline leukemia as it relieves symptoms associated with decrease in immunity thus extending the period of survival.

However, it is not able to cure a sick animal permanently.

It can also be used to treat cats infected with FIV, but relevant studies have not yet been done here.

It can also be used topically, by applying to the cornea of ​​cats in the course of herpes virus-related catarrh, when we are dealing with keratoconjunctivitis.

However, we have to give it many times a day.

Interferons are also used in the treatment of fungal infections, chronic respiratory infections, or in the case of papillomatosis in dogs and cats.

INF omega

INF omega, i.e. the cat's version of interferon.

Feline interferon is species-specific and therefore shows significantly lower antigenic properties and stronger antiviral activity in feline cells.

It is similar in structure to canine interferon.

Interferon omega enhances the immune system in a non-specific way, but also destroys virus-infected cells and inactivates translation proteins.

In dogs, it is mainly used to treat parvovirosis, where it has been shown to reduce mortality and the course of the disease.

In cats, as with human interferon, it is used in FIV and FelV (immunodeficiency feline leukemia), but only if the disease is not yet too advanced.

In general, the indications and use of omega interferon in cats and dogs remain the same as for interferon alpha.

A commercial preparation containing feline recombinant omega interferon is Virbagen registered for use in dogs and cats in the case of intestinal parvovirosis or FeLV and FIV infections (but not in the end stage of the disease).

The preparation which stimulates the production of interferon is one containing inactivated Parapoxvirus ovis strain.

It also activates NK cells, which reduces the symptoms of the disease, and shortens the time and process of spreading the infection.

This type of preparation, which is an undoubted advantage, can be used during pregnancy and lactation and does not cause side effects.

A commercial preparation containing this strain is well known to many, already mentioned Zylexis recommended for the prevention of infectious diseases and in decrease in immunity related to stressful situations.

We should also never forget that the use of this type of preparation cannot release us from the obligation to carry out preventive vaccinations, which best protect specifically against a given disease.

How to support the immune system?

How to support the immune system?

When fighting a given disease, we must, of course, never forget about the traditional symptomatic and causal treatment, which can be supported with a variety of non-specific products.

They contain various active substances.

Below I present some of them as an example.


Isoprosine being a synthetic derivative of purines, it has antiviral and immunostimulatory properties.

It increases the body's ability by stimulating macrophages to phagocytosis and the maturation of T lymphocytes.

In our dogs, it can be used as an auxiliary in the treatment of early distemper, respiratory infections or in the case of diarrhea in dogs.

Its important role is also to prevent bacterial infections in the case of viral ones, so it helps with secondary infections.

Insulin-like growth factor 1

Insulin-like growth factor 1 is a protein similar in structure to insulin itself, showing a strong stimulating effect on the thymus and T lymphocytes.


Lactoferrin is a protein from the transferrin family that binds iron, and therefore constitutes the first line of defense against infections, and is produced by epithelial cells into tears, saliva, milk and cells that have been in contact with germs.

Lactoferrin generally speaking stimulates immunity in the course of various infections and in cancer, it causes an influx of immune cells to the place of infection and intensifies their killing activity.

Importantly, it inhibits the formation of autoantibodies directed against your own cells and tissues, which allows you to use it in autoimmune background diseases.

From a practical point of view, we can use lactoferrin in the treatment of cat runny nose or common viral infections, e.g. feline leukemia.

Lowering immunity in situations of constant stress

Lowering immunity in situations of constant stress

It may sound banal, but living in a stressful situation, especially for longer periods, always results in a strong reduction of general immunity and therefore greater susceptibility to infections.

Stressors stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and redirect "attention and energy resources " of the body to the struggle for survival and not to maintain an appropriate level of immunity.

While stress is short-lived, it plays an important role in the survival of an individual, but, unfortunately, stress that lasts longer is not beneficial for every organism.

There are many products on the veterinary market that contain active substances that neutralize, in a sense, adverse changes caused by stress.

Perhaps the most famous and frequently used are those based on beta glucan.

Beta glucan

Beta glucan is a polysaccharide found in nature in the cell walls of fungi, plants and some bacteria.

It shows the strongest effect 1.3-1.6 betaglucane.

It has a general stimulating effect and affects the efficient functioning of macrophages, monocytes, NK cells and neutrophils by binding to their cell walls.

Such a wide action means that we use it in all stressful situations, with bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

Preparations containing beta glucan destroy cancer cells and improve the condition of older animals or very young ones with not yet competent immune system.

Beta glucan enhances the action of antibiotics and antifungal or anti-parasitic preparations, and accelerates tissue regeneration and neutralizes free radicals.

It is available in many commercial products (e.g. Bioimmunex canis or Immunoxan dog, cat).


Another active substance used to reduce stress is lysozyme, affecting the humoral and cellular response or the phagocytosis process.

It also influences the production of interleukins and the production of interferon.

It is obtained from the protein of a chicken egg and although no detailed studies have been carried out, it seems to be a very safe substance even during pregnancy in bitches or cats.

Human drugs

In veterinary medicine, we can also use human medicines such as filgastim if sagramostim.

The former is a recombinant human granulocyte growth factor produced by a modified bacterium E. Cola.

Overall, it stimulates the bone marrow to produce more white blood cells, which translates into an increase in the number neutrophils.

It also inhibits the release of pro-inflammatory factors.

The preparation with this active substance is indicated in any case severe neutropenia, so in the course of:

  • parvovirosis,
  • plastic anemia in Ehrlichia infections,
  • anti-cancer therapy,
  • in case of hyperestrogenization.

In cats, we can use it to support the treatment of:

  • leukopenia caused by viral infections (e.g. in feline leukemia),
  • aplastic anemia,
  • myeloproliferative diseases.

Another active ingredient used in modifying immunity is sagramostim being a recombinant analog of macrophage and granulocyte growth stimulating factor.

It affects cell lines present in the bone marrow, causing the growth of monocytes, lymphocytes and macrophages, and by acting on peripheral macrophages.

As a result of its use, the ability to phagocytose fungi and their spores increases.

However, we must remember about the time of administration, which should not exceed 3 weeks, because we cannot stimulate the immune system indefinitely because, figuratively speaking, we will exhaust its ability to function efficiently.

Among other substances that stimulate the immune system, it is worth mentioning TFX that is veal thymus extract stimulating the activity of lymphocytes, and HMB that is 3 hydroxy-3 ethylbutyric acid.

The latter is a hydroxy acid produced in the body from lecithin.

It stimulates phagocytes and divides T and B lymphocytes, which stimulates the lymphatic system.

Vegetable substances that affect immunity

There are a number of plant-based products in natural medicine that have been used in the states for centuries reduced immunity caused by disease.

Their use is the result of many years of observations made by society at a time when traditional pharmacy was not yet known and knowledge in the field of medicine was passed on by healers, fairies and shamans.

Therefore, the question arises whether in domestic animals their administration is medically justified and, above all, safe?

In many cases, despite the lack of relevant research, it seems so.

Of course, under one basic condition, namely, we must never use plant substances in our animals without veterinary consultation due to the different metabolism of many xenobiotics in their systems.

A prime example of this is the extracts from purple coneflower that is Echinacea.

They contain various alkaloids, heteroglycans, echinacosides, chicory and coffee acids, which exhibit immunostimulating properties.

So many active substances stimulate phagocytosis, the production of tumor necrosis factor, or block the action of fibroblasts and hyaluronidase.

They also increase the production of NK cells, monocytes or block the production of inflammatory mediators, i.e. prostaglandins and leukotrienes responsible for clinical symptoms.

As we can see, they show a very broad immunostimulating effect.

From other plants that nature gives us, we can use:

  • astragalus,
  • aloe,
  • black cumin.

For example, aloe vera juice is considered to be a biological activator of the immune system, influencing the humoral and cellular response of the body.

Down modifying immunity dogs and cats, we can also use drugs that are used for other main purposes, in other words, those whose main pharmacological action is different from the effect on the immune system.

A perfect example of this can be:

  • cimetidine,
  • levamisole,
  • erythropoietin (EPO).

Cimetidine is a drug used in gastroenterology to inhibit vomiting occurring in chronic inflammation of the digestive system.

It is an antagonist of the histamine H2 receptor.

Its additional action is to block receptors on suppressor lymphocytes, which affects the immune system.

Levamisole in turn, it is an antiparasitic drug used mainly in farm animals, and in dogs and cats in the treatment of heartworms, i.e. heartworm disease.

In order to increase immunity in small animals we use it mainly in recurrent infections of the respiratory system, urogenital system and in the case of staphylococcal infections and herpesviruses.

It stimulates cellular immunity.

Levamisole affects phosphodiesterase, which in turn affects cGMP, which indirectly leads to the stimulation of lymphocytes, the growth of phagocytes, and to chemotaxis.

It is certainly convenient to administer the drug orally, but its main disadvantage is its high toxicity in companion animals, which can cause symptoms such as:

  • vomiting,
  • excessive salivation,
  • diarrhea,
  • nervous system symptoms like nicotine poisoning.

Erythropoietin as we all know it is mainly used in anemia caused by kidney failure and lack of natural EPO.

It increases the number of red blood cells, but at the same time increases the number of neutrophils and lymphocytes, i.e. the white blood cell system.

Intestinal flora

Properly functioning intestinal flora, i.e. multitudes of bacteria living in balance, affects the appropriate level of immunity within the digestive system and more.

It is live microorganisms, so probiotics most often Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus can stimulate immune system the walls of the intestine.

This can happen by reducing the activity of Th2 lymphocytes responsible, inter alia, for food allergies.

It is not without significance that this is what it is immune system intestines plays a key role in proper immunity of the entire system hence it is worth taking care of in the context of healthy intestines.

Probiotics, being safe dietary supplements, are widely used in the treatment of mainly diarrhea and as an adjunctive treatment with longer use of oral antibiotics.


Strengthening the cat's immunity

Each animal keeper would like his pet to be healthy and enjoy full vitality in all its aspects.

So it is obvious that it is not possible without an efficient one the immune system.

The immune system, although we are not aware of it, is simply necessary for us every day, and life without it is not real.

Therefore, at all costs, we should consciously take care of its efficient functioning.

Various types of supplements with these active substances can help us in this task.

So far, however, we do not have one universal and helpful panacea for all immune mechanisms.

Many of the products available on the pharmaceutical market do not have a documented effect, so do not give them yourself, but consult a veterinarian.

After all, it is not about supplementation in itself, but about the action that will result increasing immunity how we will ensure our health.

Sources used >>

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