What Nutrients Can Help a Pet’s Immune System?
Everyone wants to keep their pet healthy, and the right nutrition can play a major role in making that happen.
Just like humans, dogs and cats are susceptible to their own viruses and infections, which is why it’s important to choose a dog food or cat food that is formulated with nutrients that proactively support a natural immune response. When checking a pet food label, here are the top nutrients to help keep your furry friend’s immune system strong today and tomorrow.
The Power of Antioxidants
Your pet’s body — much like your own — is constantly working to remove toxic, oxidized molecules from its system. Left unchecked, these molecules (known as “free radicals”) accumulate in cells to create oxidative stress. The more stress a cell is placed under, the more difficult it is to perform its intended function or repair itself.
Antioxidants are a key tool the body uses to process free radicals and combat oxidative stress before it affects a body’s cell structure and DNA.
The top three antioxidants for pets
Vitamin E consists of a group of compounds (known as tocopherols) that work to inactivate free radicals, giving them antioxidant effects. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that works to improve blood circulation and promote the healing of tissues.
For humans, vitamin E can be applied directly to the skin via oils, oral supplements, etc., but it is easily supplemented into many pet foods. It’s important to remember that vitamin E is fat-soluble and can stay in the body, so it's better to select a balanced pet food and feed according to guidelines to help ensure your pet gets the amount that is right for them.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that can also help reduce inflammation and regenerate vitamin E.
Interestingly enough, dogs and cats have the ability to synthesise vitamin C on their own as a way to support mandatory functions in their body. Supplying additional vitamin C into their diet — along with a balanced amount of other key nutrients — can help bolster your pet's immune system.
Vitamin C is also water-soluble, which means that when given to your pet, their body can use exactly the amount they need while the rest is cleared from their body. A complete and balanced food that also contains vitamin C is the best way to ensure they get an amount that is beneficial without making their body do more work than is necessary.
Just like other antioxidants, beta-carotene works to prevent the build-up of free radicals and the potential havoc they can wreak on healthy cells. In pets, this nutrient works to support vitamin E and promote stronger immune responses.
Other key players in your pet’s immune system
Aside from popular antioxidants, taurine, selenium and the essential amino acid methionine can all play a critical role in your pet’s natural defence systems.
Additionally, omega-3s have become popular for their anti-inflammatory properties. EPA and DHA are specific omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in fish oils from cold-water fish. Linolenic acid is an essential omega-3 fatty acid and ingredients like soybean oil and flaxseed are rich sources.
Pet foods that have been carefully formulated to include these beneficial nutrients make it easy for you to provide complete and balanced nutrition for your pet based on its age or your concerns.
However, there is more to a pet’s daily nutrition than simply checking the boxes for ingredients or nutrients. Your dog or cat’s lifestage, size, activity level and any special health issues all play a part in determining what your pet needs for a long and healthy life, so it’s best to check with your veterinarian to find a dog food or cat food that is right for your pet’s specific needs.