Your Guide to the Dog Immune System | Pupford

March 13th, 2023

Filed under Health + Wellness

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You know those people who just never seem to get sick? Who escape every cold and flu season with not even a single sniffle? And you sit there in envy, every year, saying “I wish I haid their immune system!” between sneezes?

PS- Learn all about dog sneezing here.

Ok, that might be a little dramatic, but it’s true -- immune systems play an important part in being healthy, and the same goes for our dogs!

We all want to see our dogs live their healthiest, happiest lives -- and that starts with a strong immune system.

However, unless you’re a veterinarian, you likely don’t have much experience or expertise in this area.

So today we’ll be diving deep into your dog’s immune system so you can learn more about the best way to take care of your pup.

While this topic is so in-depth that we could talk about it for days, we’re going to stick with answering these main questions:

  • How does a dog’s immune system work?
  • How strong are dogs’ immune systems?
  • What causes a dog’s immune system to attack itself?
  • What causes a dog’s immune system to weaken?
  • How do you build a dog’s immune system?

Of course, these are just the most common questions we get, so we’re sure people have more questions. If that’s the case, drop them in the comments below so we can expand on this topic in the future!

For now, let’s get started on these four FAQs.


We know you don’t typically come to Pupford for a science lesson, but it’s important to understand exactly how your dog’s immune system works in order to best care for it.

We’ll keep it brief -- and we promise there won’t be a pop quiz.

A dog’s immune system is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, antibodies, as well as organs, glands, and other tissues that support it.

The immune system protects against bacteria, fungi, and toxins to keep your dog healthy. In short, any time the body detects anything that’s not its own, it triggers a response to send white blood cells to engulf and defeat the disease-causing germ.

Your dog’s immune system also has a pretty good way of remembering all the germs it has encountered in the past, so once it faces it again, it can defeat it more quickly.

Dog's immune system infographic | Pupford


Since we don’t see our dogs get the sniffles like we do, it might make you think your dog’s immune system is stronger than yours.

While dogs’ immune systems are definitely strong, they aren’t necessarily stronger than a human’s (They do, however, have stronger stomach acids which can help them fight off bacteria in food better than we can).

In fact, immune systems really aren’t “stronger” from one species to another. But, as we mentioned before, being exposed to more germs can help your immune system build up more responses and learn to fight off more bacteria. Dogs are exposed to a decent amount of germs (think of all the things that they put in their mouths that you probably wouldn’t), so over time they build up their response more than humans do.

So while your dog’s immune system might not be any stranger than yours in the traditional sense, you shouldn’t worry about your dog getting sick any more than yourself in most cases.


The reason we said “in most cases” to end the last section is because, unfortunately, dogs’ immune systems are not perfect.

Sometimes dogs (just like people) can experience an autoimmune disease, where the body ends up attacking its own tissue. Scientists have a few theories as to why this happens, including:

  • After certain viruses or infections, the body can mistake healthy cells for dangerous ones and launch an attack against them.
  • High stress of a body part due to injury can trigger an autoimmune response like inflammation.
  • Although the specifics are still being tested, scientists understand that there’s a genetic component to developing an autoimmune disorder.

Keep in mind that autoimmune diseases in dogs is a severe and chronic health condition. If you have any suspicion that this is happening to your dog, call your veterinarian right away!


A much more common immune system issue seen in dogs is just having a weak immune system. In this case, your dog’s immune system won’t misfire per se, but it won’t have the necessary response when exposed to a virus or bacteria.

Dogs with weakened immune systems will get frequent viruses or infections, have poor growth, and may be lethargic and lack an appetite.

A weakened immune system can be caused by:

  • A congenital immunodeficiency disorder (being born with it)
  • An experience with a severe virus or infection
  • Allergies
  • Poor nutrition - learn more about proper nutrition for your dog hereWhile there are certain circumstances where the condition is hereditary and can’t be prevented, the good news is that more often than not, there are things you can do to help boost your dog’s immune system and prevent it from weakening.


Building your dog’s immune system is key to keeping them healthy and happy. And good news -- there are a few simple steps you can take that will make a big difference:


dog running in snow for a healthy immune system | Pupford

Keeping your dog fit and active improves just about every area of health, including the immune system!

Physical activity gets rid of excess fat, which controls inflammatory hormones that are detrimental to immune health.

Remember, exercise should be fun for you and your dog! Take it beyond your typical walk around the neighborhood and turn exercise into quality time by picking fun activities like hiking, fetch, training sessions to work on a new skill, or swimming.

And if you’re concerned about heat, weather, or limited outdoor space getting in the way of your dog being active, here are ways to exercise your dog indoors!


Did you know that 70% of the immune system is in the gut? The way to your dog’s immune system is through the stomach!

Make sure you’re feeding your dog a nutritious diet. While feeding nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all approach, you’ll want to include high-quality meats, vegetables, fiber, and live bacteria to support a healthy immune system.

For more on the correlation between diet and health, check out this recent interview with Dr. Greg Sunvold, PhD!

And check out our FREE course that covers all the basics of dog nutrition.


While supplements can’t replace good nutrition and activity, they can be a helpful tool for a healthy, happy pup.

That’s why we’re super excited about our Super Pup supplement! It’s specifically designed to improve multiple areas of your dog’s health, including their immune system! It’s suitable for dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages thanks to its carefully-selected ingredients including these that focus on the immune system:

  • Biotics (to support the gut)
  • Taurine
  • Digestive enzymes
  • And more!

You can read all about Super Pup here.

Is your dog a Super Pup? We’d love to hear about their experience with our supplement in the comments below or on social media!


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