Immunity, a word everyone knows about, a word that holds the core important place in our health. The Covid Situation has made all of us very much aware of certain terminologies like immunity, health, and correlation with the immune system, herd immunity, and its importance in the health and wellbeing sector of our life. Did you know, immunity is a concept that is applied to our pets as well and is not simply related to humans! Immunity is an umbrella concept which does play a pivotal role in our day-to-day lives.
In today’s blog, we are going to dive into the topic ‘Immunity’, what is its importance, and how immunity plays a massive role in your pet’s life.
Tanvi Shendye, Bombay Veterinary College, Mumbai
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS IMMUNITY?
The definition of Immunity is the ability of an organism to resist a particular infection or toxin by the action of specific antibodies or sensitized white blood cells. In simpler terms, Immunity is the ability of your body (or your pet’s body) to fight back an Infection, to kill and remove the disease-causing microorganisms. There are a little army or fighter cells called the White Blood Cells which act as the fighters against any infection. These little fighters are responsible for the killing, eating (phagocytosis), and discarding most of the disease-causing microorganisms that invade your body. It is a complex biological system that has the ability to recognize whatever belongs to the self-body and to reject what is foreign to the body (non-self) for example microbes.
WHAT IS IMMUNITY IN PETS? HOW IS IT BUILT?
Immunity is the body’s natural way to fight and resist infection. It can either be naturally present inside your pet due to genetic factors etc or due to the mother’s milk or it could be acquired by vaccination or fighting infection. Let’s see what exactly is Innate vs Acquired Immunity.
- INNATE IMMUNITY
Innate Immunity is the type of Immunity that is present right from birth.
It is the inborn resistance mechanism against disease-causing microorganisms and infections that an individual possesses right from birth, due to their genetic makeup.
- ACQUIRED IMMUNITY
This type of Immunity is however adapted or acquired by an organism after birth via vaccines or exposure to microorganisms.
FACTORS AFFECTING IMMUNITY IN PETS.
Immunity and immune response vary a lot from one individual to another, species to species. It’s a perfect amalgamation of genetic factors and environmental factors.
The immune response thus owes a major of its chunk to environmental factors apart from genetic factors. Let’s understand various factors one by one.
Factors influencing Immune Response are :
Age plays the most important role in the immunity of pets. Mostly young and old the extreme ends of the life cycle are particularly vulnerable to infections due to hampered Immunity. Let’s see how.
In young puppies or kittens, there is something called Maternal antibodies which is present in the milk of the mother. These antibodies are very essential and are meant to protect kittens and puppies from diseases and infections. Thus it’s important to give the puppies and kittens their mother’s milk when they are young. Adequate maternal antibodies are thus essential to prevent severe or chronic illness or death. Mother’s Milk has immunoglobulins (which help in immunity building) which helps your pets immensely.
It’s also very important to note here that puppies younger than 45 days should not be weaned as it might cause puppies to have less Immunity. Also as a vigilant pet parent, it is advisable to not buy puppies and kittens younger than the prescribed age since it’s always better to have pets with good Immunity and health as this will affect your puppies and kitties in the long run.
The younger population of pets like kittens and puppies are at greater risk of infection as they are still building their Immunity up. Certain infections such as Parvo Virus Infection in puppies or Feline Leukemia Virus in kittens are some of the diseases which affect the younger population as compared to the older ones, this is because the younger animals are more susceptible to infections.
Thus, age here is a crucial factor.
This is why, we vaccinate our puppies and kittens from the 6th to 8th week onwards against various organisms like Parvo Virus, Leptospira, Adeno Virus, etc in puppies through the 9 in 1 Vaccine
While in cats we vaccinate them to build up Immunity against Calicivirus, Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), etc.
These vaccinations are initially given at 6th– 7th week onwards followed by booster doses for the same and then followed by Anti Rabies Vaccine which again builds up Immunity against the deadly Rabies Virus. This vaccination schedule must be followed as it helps to prevent life-threatening conditions since it helps to build up the immunity of the animal.
Annual vaccination is thus done to keep the immunity at a stable level and help your pets to lead a healthy happy life.
Nutrition plays a vital role in immunity. Gut health plays a crucial role in immunity as does what your pets eat. A diet rich in optimum levels of minerals, vitamins, fibers, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, proteins is important to give your pets all nutrients essential to build up a strong body and stronger immunity.
Here are some nutrients which are important for the development of a normal immune response –
Vitamins like: Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, B vitamins (Vitamin B complex)
Polyunsaturated fatty acids,
Minerals like: Calcium, Copper, Selenium Chromium, Zinc, etc
Many of these nutrients act as antioxidants which have the ability to protect the immune cells from oxidative damage and help in the building of a strong immune system.
Stress is one of the factors which hampers the Immunity of your pets.
Sudden stress will lead to the release of adrenaline that will suppress the immune response. Long-term stress causes the release of cortisol, which is also immunosuppressive at high levels.
Any kind of physical or emotional stress affects your pets, for example – a sudden change of atmosphere and environment, severe weather changes (extreme high temperature, extremely low temperature), traveling, excessive handling, trauma, illness, pregnancy, boarding, etc.
HEALTH CARE PRACTICES
If there is poor sanitation or poor Management practices, it might take a toll on the immunity of your pets.
For example in the case of kennel cough, your puppy may have been subjected to poor hygiene or an unhealthy atmosphere such as a dog boarding facility without adequate vaccination or protection against the same.
Exercise plays a huge role in building immunity in your pets. Series of regular exercises enhances immune response. However, it’s important to note here that over-exertion or Strenuous exercise results in oxidative damage to the cells and will have a backfire effect, increasing the susceptibility to infections. Anything in excess is harmful thus, regular walks, regular exercise are important.
Also never exercise your pets immediately before or after food as again it will have harmful effects on your pet’s system. Exercise should be moderated and done in proper quantities.
Immunity plays a crucial role in protecting your pet throughout their life. There are many microbes in the environment, and always remember the golden rule – ‘Prevention is better than cure’
Vaccinate your furry friends routinely, provide them with good nutritious food and supplements, proper exercise, a good environment, happy atmosphere for the overall health and protection of your pet.
The importance of Immunity is immense, as it is important for health and resistance!
HOMEOPATHIC VETERINARY MEDICINE
CANASULE No.1 for pets is the best remedy cum Growth enhancer for PUPS & KITTENS for Prevention and Treatment of symptoms like indigestion, vomitings, eating of inanimate objects, stomachache, Diarrhoea, Medicinal threshold, uneasiness, debility, etc. It is the best Homeopathic Veterinary Medicine for Pups and Kittens in cases of uneasiness during nights and approaching a veterinarian is difficult.