How can the right nutrition support your dog’s natural defences
Your dog’s natural defences start developing as soon as he is conceived. He continues to get support for these defences from his mother, firstly in utero and then through her milk. As a puppy, once he is weaned, you can contribute to support his natural defences through his diet.
Natural defences are important to your dog right throughout his life, whether he is a puppy, an adult or an older dog. They help keep him healthy and vibrant, helping him to adapt to change and challenges, and they protect him when he goes out into the world. As a result, support for your dog’s natural defences is now a major component of any high-quality dog food.
Let’s look at some of the ways that nutrition can support your dog’s natural defences. Firstly though -
What are your dog’s natural defences?
Your dog’s natural defences are a complex system that protects him against foreign elements like bacteria and viruses.
The development of his defences occurs gradually, over time. Supporting this development while he is a puppy is crucial as it can have a great influence on his health for the rest of his life.
Nutrients are the key to supporting natural defences
The way high-quality food supports the development of your dog’s natural defences is through added nutrients, which are substances that provide the nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of his life.
Of the nutrients specifically beneficial to dogs, scientific research has shown that food enriched with antioxidants can support a dog’s natural defences (National Research Council, 2006; Koelsch & Smith, 2001).
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and micronutrients found naturally in various foods that help protect cells against damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are produced during the normal functioning of the body, but additional free radicals can occur due to external factors like pollution, tobacco or UV radiation. When quantities of free radicals are too high they can affect DNA, lipids and cell proteins.
Vitamin E, Magnanese and zinc are examples of naturally occurring antioxidants that can be found in high-quality dog food.
These antioxidants are particularly helpful when your dog is a puppy and perhaps facing the outside world for the first time. They can also be important later in life, when he’s getting older. As dogs age, their natural defences do tend to decrease, and support for these defences can help to minimize this effect. Antioxidants are also beneficial if your dog is being exposed to some form of change, or if he is recovering from illness or disease.
His first natural barrier: a healthy skin and coat
If antioxidants are important for your dog's internal health, a robust skin and coat is a major factor in his external defence. It is his first natural barrier to the outside world.
Your dog’s skin and coat are both in a state of constant renewal, and this regeneration draws a great deal of the available nutrients from your dog’s diet. This is why making the right food choice for your dog is of such high importance; it will help him continue to have a healthy skin and coat and maintain this first line of defence. It’s particularly important during periods of moulting, if his immune system is fragile, or at times when he might be exposed to fleas and other parasites.
Research has shown that a diet containing Omega-6 fatty acids and zinc can help to support a dog’s healthy skin and coat, so look out for these nutrients when choosing a food for your dog.