Dog Immunity: Protective & Immune Boosting Herbs
When it comes to dog immunity, did you know that your dog’s immune system is very similar to your own? It’s true. Aside from a few differences, they’re actually a lot alike.
Both the human and canine immune system consists of two parts: innate immunity and adaptive immunity. This is actually true for all vertebrates!
Innate immunity is a foundational component of the immune system, targeting foreign invaders and balancing the system. The adaptive immunity component changes as required, targeting specific pathogens that it remembers from previous contact.
These two parts work together helping the ecosystem thrive.
The Innate Immune System
The innate immune system includes physical components of the ecosystem including the hair, skin, intestinal mucosa, the lung lining, and the white blood cells within these components.
White blood cells called macrophages are key within the innate system as they attack foreign bodies as soon as they enter the body. Macrophages are interesting in that they process pathogens by surrounding them and covering their linings with parts of the pathogen. This process creates antigens (the pieces of pathogen on the lining). Antigens warn other cells that there’s an invader.
Other white blood cells called basophils, eosinophils, and neutrophils are also involved. Basophils release histamine in an allergy response, while eosinophils target viruses and parasites. Neutrophils outnumber both basophils and eosinophils, serving as an antibiotic destroying harmful bacteria.
These cells produce metabolic waste as part of the process. They produce enzymes, acids, and most importantly free radicals. Together, these substances form the inflammation response in the body.
The Adaptive Immune System
The adaptive immune system is part of the immunological back-up of the body’s ecosystem. It’s divided into two parts: cellular and humoral immunity.
Adaptive immunity primarily consists of cells called lymphocytes. These are highly targeted cells with a specific job: recognize the pathogenic invader. Lymphocytes work with the innate immune system’s method of flagging an invader for termination. New threats can also be targeted by lymphocytes, but it takes more time (can take days) if they haven’t already been recognized by the system.
Cellular immunity involves lymphocytes that recognize and terminate abnormal cells. One type of lymphocyte (T-helper cells) educates other immune cells, and these then warn T-lymphocytes to go in for the kill. It sounds barbaric, I know, but in a way, the immune system is a highly refined weapon.
**NOTE: Another important component of the immune system are NK (natural killer) cells. These cells target abnormal cells as well as cells marked by antigens. NK cells work with both the innate and adaptive components of the immune system.
Boost Dog Immunity & Reduce Stress
Here are some things you can do to help boost your, your dog’s immunity, reduce your stress, and protect yourself!
1. Eat healthy, focusing on lots of vegetables and avoid processed foods. Sugar weakens the immune system. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and fried and fatty foods as much as possible. And don’t forget, eating healthy is important for mental health as well as physical health.
2. Get enough sleep and turn off electronics at least 1 hour before going to bed. Sleep in total darkness.
3. Get outdoors and breathe in the wild. Forests and nature have different molecules that help produce a healthy immune system like negative ions and photons. Exercise is also a great stress reliever. Sunshine is also important when it is available. 20 minutes a day will do wonders for you. It actually helps your body produce anti-microbials when you’re exposed to it.
You can also supplement with Vitamin D with K and A. Take 1,000 – 10,000 mg per day. Vitamin D helps strengthen your immune system.
4. Make sure you are getting enough zinc. At least 20-40 milligrams per day is important. Meat, eggs, organic dairy, soaked legumes, nuts and seeds are all good sources of zinc.
5. Vitamin C is also a good supplement for immune health. Ester-C is buffered and can be easier on the stomach. Take 1,000 mg 2x daily.
6. Skin brushing is also a good practice as it brings blood to the surface of the skin and cleanses the lymphatics. Just take a brush with stiff bristles against the skin to help exfoliate dead cells from the skin surface and enhance blood flow. Remember that the lymphatics are the vehicle of the immune system and keeping them clear is super important when it comes to getting sick.
Warm or Cool?
NOTE: viruses deplete the ecosystem compared to bacteria, which produce heat. FIRST STEP: figure out if you’re warm or cool.
Signs of Heat
- Burning sensations
- Dark urine
- Craving for cold
- Heat intolerant
- Excessive sweating
- Thick or sticky discharges
- Prone to infections
- System inflammation
- Strong appetite
- Irritability, temper
- Red face or eyes
Signs of Coolness
- Low thirst
- Low blood pressure
- Clear excretions
- Wanting to be warm
- Aversion to the cold
- Poor circulation
- Cold hands and feet
- Feeling of dampness
- Lack of sweat
- Loose stools
- Poor appetite
Protective & Immune Boosting Herbs
These herbs are all incredibly valuable when it comes to proactively protecting dog immunity (and your own)!
Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata)
Andrographis is an anti-viral acting against many strains of influenza and other viruses. Native to India, andrographis is also antibacterial and anti-parasitic. It strengthens the immune system and protects the heart or cardiac system. This herb is good for those people that have a compromised heart and immune system.
Take about 10 drops 3x daily as a tincture, and as a dried herb 300-500 mg 2x daily.
Note: 1% of people who take andrographis can develop hives while using this herb. Discontinue if this should develop.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceu) – Cooling
Astragalus is a warming root that helps support and simulate the immune system by flushing metabolic waste through the kidneys. This herb is for cool tissue states with generalized weakness. Astragalus increases antibodies, white blood cells, T-cells, NK cells, immunoglobulin and macrophages. It can help the body fight viruses like corona, but is more beneficial when taken before getting ill.
You can use a tincture of astragalus using 15-20 drops 3x daily in a small amount of warm water, or use the dried herb 500 mg 2x daily with food.
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) – Warming
Boneset is a powerful antiviral herb that is used for coughing, lung ailments, and influenza. You can use it for treatment of influenza and assist in the prevention of influenza in small drop doses. Boneset helps balance out heat in the body including fever and heat in the respiratory system. Boneset is bitter so put it in juice before putting it in your mouth. You can also take capsules.
For drop dosing, use 3-5 drops 2x daily. For treatment, 10-15 drops 3x daily or as tolerated. Herbal powder can be taken in a capsule. Take 300-500 mg 2x daily with food.
Hedgemaple (Acer campenstre) – Neutral – Phytoembryonic therapy
Hedgemaple is an antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. It is an antiviral that is tonic in nature. It helps regulate the immune system.
1:200 Gemmotherapy use 25-50 drops 2x daily/1:20 or 1:10 use 10 drops 2x daily.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – Warming
NOTE: avoid with hyperthyroid
Ashwagandha supports the stress response and the immune system with its antioxidant activity. It has an effect on macrophages as an antiviral as well as increases white blood cells and antibodies. Ashwagandha is good in the recovery period of illness.
As a tincture, take 15-25 drops 3x daily during illness. As a herb, take 500 mg 2x daily.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – Warming
Calendula is one of my favorite herbs. It is an excellent lymphatic that warms the core, and it is also an immune tonic. It helps balance out cold, deficient conditions, helping maintain the fluid balance in the lymphatics. It helps with elimination, which is key with dealing with influenza and the immune system. Lymph maintenance must be addressed when trying to rid the body of the effects of viral flu.
Use as a tincture, 5-10 drops 3x daily.
Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia/Purpurea) – Cooling
Echinacea of both varieties acts upon the immune system by helping decrease inflammation, move lymph, cool fluids, and increase white blood cell counts. Echinacea increases macrophage production as well as T-cell production. It is best used as a preventative like elderberry to help prime the immune system. To balance its cooling effects, combine with ginger.
As a tincture, take1/4 ml for every 15 pounds 2x daily before food using for a short period of time, three weeks on and then take a week off.
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) – Slightly Warming
Reishi mushroom is an immune foundation mushroom. It enhances the immune system by coating the body’s cells, helping create a resistance to viruses. The triterpenes in reishi stimulate the immune system, produce macrophages and help regulate productive immune cells. Reishi also helps with the production of healthy gut function, which can also help absorption. Reishi combines well with astragalus.
Dosage: 1 gram twice daily on an empty stomach. Go to realmushrooms.com to shop for reishi in the United States. Look for hot water extracted extracts of reishi in other areas of the world.
Olive Leaf (Olea Europa) – Neutral
Olive leaf is high in antioxidants and is an immune booster as well as an antiviral. It increases white blood cells and helps the immune system destroy viruses and bacteria. Olive leaf helps keep viruses from replicating.
Use an extract with at least 12% of oleuropein, which is the active ingredient in olive leaf. Olive leaf can cause nausea so make sure you take it with food. Take a minimum of 500 mg 2x daily up to 2,000 mg.
Rye (Secale cereale) – Phytoembryonic Therapy 1:20 or 1:200
Rye helps support the immune system and is a powerful antiviral. It has been used for influenza by regulating the immune system especially in people with autoimmune disease. It keeps the immune system from becoming over reactive.
Tincture 1:200 Gemmotherapy: 25-50 drops 2-3 times daily. Tincture 1:20 Mother Tincture: 10-15 drops 2-3 times daily.
Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa) – Cooling To Neutral
Maitake helps reproduce macrophages, NK, and T cells as well as neutrophils. Maitake helps keep the immune system primed against infection, including viruses. They also help the body remove cellular waste and increase the body’s resistance against disease.
Take 1 gram 2x daily when boosting the immune system. Purchase both fruiting body and mycelium and take together. You can do 500 mg of each. Look for hot water extracted extract. Paul Stamets mycelium maitake is a good source for mycelium. I also like the Pure Essence brand of maitake fruiting body here in the states.
Boosting Dog Immunity
These are all natural options for boosting dog immunity.
CBD (Cannibis Sativa) – Slightly Warming
CBD can help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections.Start with 1/2 dropper of at least 600 mg twice daily or as tolerated.
Black Current (Ribes nigrum) – Warming And Stimulating – Phytoembryonic Therapy 1:20 or 1:200
Black current phytoembryonic therapy is extremely high in vitamin C, which helps support the immune system and bring down inflammation. It works against chronic disease and protect those who are cool to cold. This tincture comes in a 1:20 and a 1:200 version. Take 10 drops 3x daily of the 1:20 and 25 drops 3x daily of the 1:200 dilution.
Burdock Root (Arctium lappa) – Neutral To Warm
Burdock root helps the liver and digestive tract, which in turn helps boost the immune system as well as keep the systems of elimination open, which is important with any type of influenza.
Dry Herb Dosage: 300 mg twice daily. Tincture Dosage: 15-30 drops 2-3 x daily while sick.
Maritime Pine Bark (Pinus pinaster/Maritima) – Neutral
Maritime Pine Bark is high in antioxidants and helps strengthen the immune system. Consistent use of this tree medicine helps push through systemic stagnation and increase circulation. Both pinaster and maritima are wonderful for supporting the immune system.
Dry Herb Dosage: 100-500 mg 2x daily. Tincture Dosage: 1/2 ml 3x daily.
Rose Hips (Rosa spp) – Cooling
Rose hips are one of the richest sources of vitamin C and they are excellent for helping with the influenza virus as well as helping to combat respiratory distress. Vitamin C helps increase white blood cell counts, is high in antioxidants, and helps protect the immune system from damage.
Take Rose Hips in powdered form, 1000 mg 2x daily. If any loose stool, cut back the dosage.
There are many ways to protect and boost dog immunity hiding right in your own backyard. Thank Mother Nature for giving us such a vast healing library! Stay safe and well everyone.
About the Author: Rita Hogan
Rita Hogan is a healer and herbalist with over 18 years of experience specializing in Holistic Canine Herbalism. She is an educator, speaker, writer, formulator and herbal medicine maker. Rita uses a combination of diet, flower essences, herbs and phytoembryonic therapies in her full-time practice based in Olympia, Washington.
Connect with Rita at canineherbalist.com