With so much talk about the incredible health challenges the world is currently facing, pet owners are naturally concerned about how these challenges can affect them and their pets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s possible for animals to have the same health issues as humans, most likely contracting them from their owners or friends, but there’s a low chance of animals spreading anything to humans. While this is good news to all pet owners, this also raises many questions about our pet’s health and immune systems, such as, do pets need added immune system protection to help keep them healthy all year around? The answer to that question is similar to the answer you will get when the same question is asked about humans; it depends.
Pet’s immune systems are very similar to human immune systems. According to Pet MD (source), pet immune systems act like a nonstop housekeeper. They identify potentially harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, then work to eliminate them before they can do harm.
Are Our Pet’s Immune System Stronger than a Human’s?
There may be a perception that pets have stronger immune systems than humans, simply based on a couple of observations such as pets don’t get colds and pets eat some very “unusual” or even “disgusting things” and still don’t get sick. While these observations are correct, there are some simple explanations as to why this is happening.
First, how do we know if our pet has a cold? They can’t tell us and even if they are under the weather, most times we wouldn’t know it or at least, it would not be that obvious to us. It is most likely that because pets do not spend as much time around other pets or even humans, they are not exposed to as many bacteria, germs, etc. that humans are exposed to and therefore, don’t get sick as often as humans.
Next, when we see our pets eating something that they shouldn’t, we can’t imagine how it doesn’t make them sick. But there they are, just hours or days after eating something really gross and yet, they carry on as if nothing is wrong. That’s because nothing is wrong. But that has more to do with their stomach acids than it does their immune system. Nature has given our pets very powerful stomach acids so they wouldn’t get sick when eating some very suspect things and usually, these acids don’t allow any of the potential pathogens to lead to any real danger for our pets.
What’s Best for Man’s Best Friend?
So, this brings us back to our original question: do pets need added immune system protection to help keep them healthy? The answer is—sometimes. Just like humans, as pets gets older, they go through something called “immunosenescence”. This means that as pets age, their immune systems deplete naturally. Their immune system weakens over the years and is not as strong as it was when they were younger. Also, if your aging pet requires certain medications, these medications can often have an immune depleting effect.
Therefore, keeping your pet’s immune system as strong as possible for as long as possible is a key factor in pet longevity. Getting your pet plenty of exercise and fresh air are two of the easiest ways to help keep their immune systems strong and if that’s not enough, consult with your veterinarian about different supplements that can boost pet immune systems.