Functional foods can be an effective and natural way to enhance your pup’s immune system and boost their overall wellbeing. But which plants should you give your pooch for the best results? To help you decide, in this article we explore what herbs are good for dogs’ immune systems and why. We also discuss how to add them to your pet’s diet, plus offer some other tips for strengthening doggy immunity.
Why you need to look after your pup’s immune system
Before exploring what herbs are good for dogs’ immunity, let’s first talk about why it’s an important question. Many of us don’t consciously think about our pet’s immune system unless they get sick. However, if your pup’s natural defences are weak, it could make them more vulnerable to illness. They will be less capable of fighting off infections and diseases, and any symptoms they experience are likely to be more severe.
The good news is that by adopting a more proactive approach, you can boost your dog’s immunity and general wellbeing. This could help them recover from illnesses more quickly, and decrease the severity of their symptoms. You might even be able to prevent them from becoming ill in the first place.
Having a strong and fully functioning immune system also reduces the chances of your dog experiencing chronic inflammation. Experts have linked such inflammation to a multitude of harmful conditions, from arthritis to diabetes. All of which means that knowing what herbs are good for dogs’ immunity could help you keep your pup happy and healthy.
Here are our top recommendations.
The best herbs for dogs and their immune system
There are several possible approaches to take when considering what herbs are good for dogs’ immunity. This is because a number of different factors can influence their immune system. Each of the following four types of functional food could have a positive effect on immunity in a natural and holistic way. As a bonus, they’re also easy to include in your pooch’s diet.
The condition of the gut microbiome has a huge impact on the health of the immune system. This is true for both us and our furry friends. Approximately 70% of your pup’s immune cells are located in their gut.(1) As such, the health of the digestive system and the diversity of bacteria that live within it are vital for defending your pooch against pathogens. And diet has a crucial role to play in this. So, what herbs are good for dogs and their gut microbiota? One of the best is Jerusalem artichoke.
Jerusalem artichoke is a fantastic source of a type of soluble fibre called inulin. This acts as a prebiotic, which means it nourishes the good bacteria in your pup’s gut.(2) At the same time, it may reduce the levels of harmful bacteria living there. Dogs lack the enzymes required to break down inulin, however the microbiota in their colon can do so via fermentation. This process produces short-chain fatty acids which lower intestinal pH, enabling pups to absorb minerals from their food more easily. All of which helps to keep their immune system strong and healthy.
To add Jerusalem artichoke powder to your dog’s diet, simply mix it into their wet food. We recommend starting with ¼ of a teaspoon daily per 5kg of your pup’s body weight. You can then increase this to up to a whole teaspoon per 5kg of body weight per day.
Dogs get anxious and stressed in the same way that we humans do. This might be because of sudden loud noises like fireworks, a change in routine, or separation anxiety. And just as stress may weaken our immune system, it can have the same impact on your pup. So, if you have a nervous pooch, one tactic for protecting their immunity is helping to alleviate their stress. But what herbs are good for dogs with stress?
Well, one of the most effective is ashwagandha. This Ayurvedic herb acts as an adaptogen, meaning that it helps the mind and body to cope with stress. Studies show that the herb can reduce signs of anxiety, stress, and fear in dogs, without unpleasant side effects.(3) It could also decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, further helping your pup relax. In turn, this enables their immune system to function at its best.
Like Jerusalem artichoke, you can mix ashwagandha into your dog’s normal wet food. We suggest giving them 250-500mg of powder per 10kg of body weight daily. Please note that the herb might interact with sedatives and drugs which suppress the immune system, so consult with a vet first if this applies to your pet.
Antioxidant herbs good for dogs’ immunity
Antioxidants are plants which protect your pup’s cells against the damage caused by free radicals. This includes their immune cells, which is why functional foods rich in antioxidants can help support a healthy immune system.(4) So, what herbs are good for dogs in terms of their antioxidant levels? Quite a few, actually!
For example, sea buckthorn oil and powder are both bursting with vitamins C and E, as well as beta-carotene. Not only do these nutrients act as antioxidants, they also enhance the health of your pup’s skin, eyes, and coat. The berry could additionally reduce inflammation and boost hydration, soothing and healing skin irritations such as dry paw pads.
Likewise, walnut oil is a fantastic source of potent antioxidants like vitamin E and ellagic acid. In addition to enhancing your pup’s immune system, the oil could work to improve their cognitive functions. This is thanks to the ability of these compounds to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.(5)
Another fabulous antioxidant-rich choice for your pooch is milk thistle. As an oil it’s bursting with vitamin E, while in its powder form it contains a potent active ingredient called silymarin. Both possess powerful free-radical-fighting properties that may help support canine immunity.
Medicinal mushrooms: top immunity dog supplements
So far, we’ve been looking at what herbs are good for dogs. However, functional fungi can also support your pup’s immune system. One reason for this is because they’re full of potent polysaccharides called beta-glucans. Research shows that beta-glucans are able to stimulate certain types of immune cells, such as macrophages and natural killer cells.(6)
Medicinal mushrooms also contain a wealth of other bioactive compounds that offer natural support for the immune system. These include polysaccharopeptide (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK) in turkey tail, and triterpenes in reishi. Such compounds may be able to suppress inflammation, plus activate specific kinds of immune cells.
But this isn’t the only reason functional fungi are good for dog immunity. Like ashwagandha, they act as adaptogens, helping to reduce the negative impacts of stress on your pup’s body. Moreover, the beta-glucans in medicinal mushrooms support gut health by nourishing the good bacteria in your pooch’s digestive system. As we discussed above, both of these are key ways to keep your pet’s immune system flourishing.
Whichever fungi you choose to give your dog, because of their potency, we suggest doing so in cycles. For instance, have a break of a few weeks after eight weeks of your pup taking them. That way, they won’t over-stimulate their immune system or develop a tolerance to the mushrooms.
We recommend using 50-100mg of mushroom powder per 1kg of your pup’s body weight. You can divide this into 2-3 doses throughout the day, and mix it into their wet food.
How to use herbs for dogs safely
Knowing what herbs are good for dogs is only one part of the puzzle. You also need to know how to give them to your pup safely. Experts generally agree that all the plants we’ve discussed in this article are suitable for canine consumption. However, it’s important to keep the following pointers in mind when adding them to your pup’s diet.
For starters, functional foods are not a replacement for professional veterinary care and medicine. If you have any concerns about your dog’s immune system or other aspects of their health, book an appointment with a vet straight away. They will be able to diagnose what’s wrong and advise you on the best course of action.
Second, not all pups can have functional foods. For instance, you shouldn’t give them to puppies, nor dogs who are pregnant or nursing. This is because there hasn’t yet been enough research into their safety for these groups. Similarly, some dogs might be allergic to certain plants. So keep a close eye on your pup and take them to the vet if you notice any negative reactions.
In fact, we recommend speaking to your vet before adding any kind of supplement to your dog’s diet. This is particularly important if your pup has an existing health condition or is taking medication. Some plants can interact with pharmaceutical drugs, so this will help to avoid any unwanted side effects.
Finally, always follow the guidance on your chosen product and be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage. This varies according to factors like your pup’s size and health needs, so check with a vet if you’re unsure.
The importance of quality in herbs for dogs
When thinking about what herbs are good for dogs, it’s not only the type of plant that matters. It’s also the quality of the product. If you want to boost your pet’s immunity with functional foods, you need to get them from a reputable company. So, let’s talk about how to find the best herbs for dogs.
First, you should always feed your pet supplements that are specifically designed for animals. Never give them the products you take – even if they’re from the same plant. Second, look for functional foods that don’t have any fillers, additives, or other unwanted ingredients. Pure powders are generally more potent and of higher quality. Third, we suggest opting for organic products where possible. Then you can feel confident that the company didn’t use any chemicals when cultivating the plants.
Here at Boosie, we make sure that we practise what we preach when creating our functional pet foods. For instance, we strive to use only the finest ingredients. We source these directly from independent farms to guarantee we produce herbs that are good for dogs. In addition, we craft all our products in small batches, which ensures that their quality remains consistently high.
When it comes to our medicinal mushrooms, we work with expert mycologists who combine years of experience with the latest scientific findings. They cultivate our fungi on natural and organic substrates, under meticulously controlled conditions in Europe. We also have our mushrooms checked by an independent and accredited quality tester. As such, we can say with confidence that they are rich in potent beta-glucans and key secondary metabolites.
Our pups deserve the very best, and that’s exactly what we aim to deliver!
Other ways to boost dog immunity
To give your pup’s immune system the maximum support, it’s helpful to look at more than simply what herbs are good for dogs. Here are some extra tips for enhancing canine immunity:
- Ensure your pup gets plenty of exercise. Keeping active reduces the risk of obesity, burns fat, and lowers inflammation – all of which is beneficial for your dog’s immune system.
- Feed your pooch a healthy diet. As well as considering what herbs are good for dogs, we must think about the food we’re adding them to. Choose a complete and balanced dog food, that’s specifically designed for your pup’s age and any health needs they have. They should also always have access to fresh water to keep them hydrated.
- Take your dog for regular check-ups at the vet, and make sure they have all the vaccinations they require.
- Keep your pup’s toys, food and water bowls, and similar items clean. This will help prevent bacterial growth which could compromise your pet’s immune system. Likewise, make sure you give your dog regular baths!
- Even if your pup is not particularly anxious, try to keep the stress in their life to a minimum. Playing games, having cuddles, and going for walks in nature can all help your dog to feel happy and relaxed. This in turn helps to keep their immune system in top condition.