Over the years of caring for our own dogs and volunteering at a local shelter, (OSCAS: Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter), we have come to realise the importance of a holistic approach when it comes to caring for our canine companions. From helping battle an outbreak of Canine influenza (dog flu) and tick infestation at the shelter to trying to maintain health of our own senior dogs, we've got a little experience to share.
In a shelter enviornment, the main focus is usually intensive care towards cleaning, medicating for tick prevention and adapting the dogs' diets to bring increase nutritional value in the single meal they get. The situation got us thinking on the importance of building our own dogs' immunity. A weakened immunity can lead to many ailments, from exposure to viruses to inflammation (which can cause arthritis as the dog ages) and in extreme cases, cancer.
Below are some immunity-building tips, but as always it's advisable to check with your vet before you start anything new for your fur friend - as age and other conditions will affect what works for one dog or another.
Lifestyle tips to improve your dog's immunity naturally:
1. Encourage your dog's innate love for play, outdoor time and sunshine: Everyone knows fresh air, sunshine and time in nature is good for your own health and the same goes for a dog's health too! Play, either at home or outdoors as it helps keep your dog engaged, helps muscle development and mental stimulation, and this holds true for both pups and senior dogs.
How often have you found your dog sunbathing? Sunshine is great to keep dogs warm and their coat shiny but it's also a source of Vitamin D, which is considered a pro-hormone. It's a vitamin because dogs can't absorb calcium without Vitamin D and it's a considered a hormone as our dogs bodies make it only in direct response to sun exposure. Vitamin D is essential for their bone health, muscles and nerve control, so encourage sunbathing.
2. Sneak in some healthy super-food options into your dog's diet as an immune booster: We are not doggy dieticians, but our research and experience (with our own dogs) highlights the following super foods and supplements that will help your dog stay strong:
# Freshly cooked food, with more meat and vegetables and less dependence on grain, starch or kibble.
# Healthy omega sources from fish oil - this could be either as a supplement or add small fish, wild-caught salmon or cod into their diet. Modest use of coconut oil (depending upon your dog's weight, it could be a teaspoon or less a day) is known to be great for a dog's skin and coat.
# Antioxidant rich sources, such as Montmorency tart cherries, pinch of turmeric, bright green vegetables such as broccoli, peas and carrots.
# Good gut bacteria for dogs through an active source of pro-biotics, such a kefir or yogurt
#Bone broth, is great as a liver detox, to build good gut health, nutritious and acts as a superior joint supplement as it contains gelatin (the breakdown of collagen), glucosamine, chondroitin and other nutrients that support good joint health! Scroll to the end of recipe.
Homemade Bone broth recipe for dogs:
Raw or cooked bones can be used but be sure to include joint bones with cartilage. You can collect and save cooked bones from your own meals in the freezer but be sure to rinse any sauce off that may be irritating to your dog’s digestive system. Bones, ranging from beef, pork or even free range chicken or turkey bones can be used.
Simmer all the bones together for at least 18-20 hours in a crockpot on low heat. Add only enough water to cover the bones so that the broth is thick and add an acidic source, such as organic apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to help draw out the minerals. For a large pot of simmering bones, 2 tablespoons should do the trick.
Once done, strain the bones (don't feed this to your dog), let it chill then skim off any excess fat from the top. Serve with love to your pooch (we often keep a little aside for our own soups too!).
And if that sounds like a lot of work, do what we often do - find a reliable source of bone broth and buy it. We get ours from The Barkery, who make yummy frozen bone broth cubes.
A healthy dog = happy dog and a happy dog = happy human... so here's to better immunity for you and your best fur friend!
For Healthy treats, check out our range here: www.loyald.com/healthytreats