We manipulate the immune system in two different ways. Using a vaccine to introduce dead or modified germs into your pet’s's body stimulates the immune system to produce natural antibodies, 'immunising' against the dangerous variety of that specific germ. Immunised pets have antibodies in their circulation which neutralise specific invaders, or attract killer cells to do the work for them. Inoculation also arms healthy body cells with natural chemicals called interferons that are used to fight certain infections. We also suppress the immune system when it becomes overactive as it does in allergic reactions or auto-immune conditions. We usually use corticosteriods but in certain circumstances other more powerful immunosuppressant drugs are better.
Nutritional Supplements And The Immune System
Studies in people show that substances that act as antioxidants may improve the immune response. Antioxidants neutralise excess 'free radicals', which are chemicals that can damage cell membranes. Antioxidants include the minerals selenium and zinc, vitamins A (as beta-carotene), C and E and bioflavenoids. Beta-carotene is thought to improve skin and mucus membrane defences. Vitamin C, which we must consume in our food but dogs have the ability to manufacture themselves, increases antibody levels while vitamin E protects body cells, tissues and organs. Some nutritionists feel that vitamin D, the B complex of vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium and manganese all have roles to play in an efficient immune system. Be sensible with any nutritional supplements. Do not oversupplement. Selenium, for example is toxic in large doses. Standard vitamin and mineral tablets for dogs and cats are safe.