How is your puppy's immunity different from an adult dog's?
We love our dogs; we wish nothing could ever hurt them. There is a system in their body critical to this mission: it’s their immune system.
The immune system is a defence system, always ready to fight against infections and disease. Acting like a shield, this network of organs, white blood cells, proteins (antibodies) and other substances is constantly assessing threats and targeting them to protect your dog’s health against bacteria, viruses, fungus, toxins, parasites and other harmful agents. But this defensive barrier is more capable in adult dogs, than in puppies.
Born with a very immature immune system, puppies need the assistance of a highly specific type of milk from their mum to survive and strengthen their natural defences. Called colostrum, this unique milk is produced after the puppy’s birth and is packed with their mum’s antibodies, helping support the entire litter’s immune system as they slowly start interacting with our world. In situations where puppies can’t be fed by their mum, replacement milk with a formula very close to that of a bitch’s milk is required.
Why is it so important to assist puppies’ immune system development?
Simply because the protection provided in their mum’s milk doesn’t last forever. Day after day, until 12 weeks, the level of antibodies coming from the milk decreases while at the same time, exploration of the surrounding environment increases, putting new germs and microorganisms on the path of your still vulnerable puppy.
It’s a delicate stage where the mother’s milk is no longer providing enough protection and their own immune system is not yet fully mature to take over - leaving them more vulnerable than ever to the risk of infection. Actually, this unique period is so critical that it even has a name —it’s called the immunity gap and it usually occurs between 4 and 12 weeks of age.
Once puppies begin receiving their vaccinations with their veterinarian, their own immunity will begin to build.
How can nutrition help?
The right puppy diet, carefully formulated with specific antioxidants can help reinforce their natural defences and their developing immune system. Further addition of prebiotics (‘food’ for the good gut bacteria) can help reinforce gut health, and ensures we keep them from experiencing diarrhoea and other tummy upsets, commonly occurring in young growing puppies.