You’ve probably heard a lot of people are helping their dogs’ allergies with colostrum. It’s a potent immune regulator and it works!
But colostrum offers a whole array of benefits for your dog … let’s take a look. But first …
What Is Colostrum?
All newborn mammals get colostrum in their mother’s breast milk. Your dog almost certainly received it as a tiny pup.
Colostrum is mother’s first milk … it supplies newborns with their first nutrition and, most importantly, it helps build a healthy immune system.
But it’s not just newborns that can benefit from colostrum. There are some important reasons to give colostrum to your adult dog too … and that colostrum doesn’t have to come from a dog. Bovine colostrum (from cows) is easy to find … and it doesn’t cost much.
In fact, colostrum has successfully treated health conditions in humans for thousands of years … and it can help your dog too.
But before we talk about the benefits of colostrum, let’s talk about what colostrum does in the body.
What’s In Colostrum
Colostrum has some key components that make up its healing properties …
Immunoglobulins – Colostrum contains immunoglobulins… also called antibodies. The antibodies in colostrum include IgG, IgM and IgA:
- IgG antibodies give puppies and young animals passive immunity. This protects them until their own immune system matures. IgG antibodies can neutralize viruses. In fact, they’re injected into humans to control hepatitis A. IgG antibodies can also fight bacteria and long standing chronic infections.
- IgM antibodies are the first antibodies newborns make. They activate a component of the immune system called the complement cascade … and that’s an important job. Some bacteria have evolved to have surfaces that complement proteins can’t bind to. IgM antibodies can bind to nearly every surface the bacteria will throw at it, and help the complement proteins attach and destroy the invaders. IgM antibodies are the first line of defense against viruses too.
- IgA are a another important class of antibodies. Your dog makes more of these than any other antibody. IgA antibodies form a lining in the digestive tract. Their job is to coat bacteria and viruses in the digestive tract so they don’t enter the body. So if dogs don’t have enough IgA antibodies, foreign invaders will constantly escape the digestive tract and cause chronic diarrhea and bowel inflammation. Or they can enter the bloodstream and cause allergy symptoms and chronic inflammation in the organs. So it’s critical that dogs have enough IgA stores in their body.
Growth factors – stimulate cell growth, help repair muscle, bone and connective tissue. They can also heal the intestinal lining.
Lactoferrin – this protein in colostrum is antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal and antiparasitic. It helps eliminate pathogens that trigger inflammation. It also has anti-tumor effects.
PRPs– stands for proline-rich polypeptides. They regulate the thymus and immune function … stimulating underactive immune systems or moderating overactive ones. They help the body respond to invaders like microbes, toxins or allergens.
MSM – methylsulfonymethane (often in joint supplements). MSM is a micronutrient that supports wound healing. It can maintain cartilage and manage pain. MSM is also used in cancer treatments. It reduced breast cancer tumors in studies. It also helped manage prostate and liver cancers.
As you can see, one of the main benefits of colostrum is its ability to regulate your dog’s immune system. But colostrum has other benefits too.
Let’s take a look at the Top 12 uses for colostrum.
Allergies are one of the best-known uses for colostrum. Allergies are often an overactive immune response. The PRPs in colostrum help moderate that response. Colostrum also helps manage inflammation. Inflammation can cause rashes, itching and discomfort for your dog.
And, a frequent cause of allergic reactions is leaky gut syndrome. Guess what? Colostrum can help with that too! Keep reading.
#2 Leaky Gut
Leaky gut happens when your dog’s gut lining gets damaged. Drugs or other toxins in his environment can do this. In leaky gut, undigested food particles can pass through the lining and get into the bloodstream. These invaders can cause problems ranging from allergies, to digestive issues, to arthritis. Studies show that colostrum can help heal leaky gut. Lactoferrin plays an important role. It helps manage inflammation and acts as a prebiotic to “feed” healthy gut bacteria.
So, now that you know it can help heal leaky gut … it shouldn’t surprise you that it can also help manage diarrhea. Studies show it can help reduce many different kinds of diarrhea. It may be chronic or acute, infectious or not. One 2007 study of dogs found that lactoferrin reduced infectious intestinal bacteria. Colostrum can also be useful for your litter of puppies. This study showed that colostrum improved fecal quality of weaned puppies.
#4 Oral Health
Periodontal disease is a leading veterinary problem in small animal patients. It’s especially prominent in small dogs and often leads to tooth loss. Most conventional vets recommend regular teeth cleaning under anesthesia. That’s risky and many dog owners are understandably reluctant. But John Ellis DVM PhD suggests colostrum can reduce the bacteria that cause gum disease. Growth factors in colostrum may also repair damaged tissue.
#5 Gut Damage From Drugs
Has your dog taken drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) or antibiotics? These drugs have many side effects. They can cause permanent damage to your dog’s gut health, including leaky gut. Several studies show that colostrum can help repair gut damage from pharmaceutical drugs. Keep colostrum in mind if your dog ever needs conventional drugs in an emergency.
We all want our dogs to stay young and vibrant forever. Research shows colostrum can have anti-aging effects on your dog … in several ways. It can help preserve lean muscle mass and bone density in older adults. This could mean better mobility and strength as your dog ages. Colostrum also improves recovery from exercise, helping prevent oxidative stress. And studies show it may prevent cognitive decline as well.
#7 Autoimmune Disease
Like humans, dogs are suffering more and more from autoimmune disease. Over-vaccination, leaky gut and environmental toxins are just some of the factors. PRPs in colostrum help regulate an overactive immune system. Immunoglobulins and lactoferrin also help limit bacteria and viruses. These viruses can trigger or aggravate autoimmune disorders. Growth factors can reduce inflammation.
Many dogs suffer itching, skin odor and discomfort from yeast. Lactoferrin and its peptides have strong antifungal activity. Lactoferrin plus colostrum’s immune-boosting properties can help fight your dog’s stubborn yeast infection.
Immunoglobulins in colostrum help support your dog’s immune system. They also help fight viruses and bacterial infections. Lactoferrin’s anti-inflammatory effects may also help treat and prevent cancer. Cytokines in colostrum can help the body fight cancer as they activate special white blood cells … that can find and kill cancer cells.
Colostrum also contains a special protein called Lactalbumin. Researchers report that Colostrum Lactalbumin can cause apoptosis (death) of cancer cells … but leaves the healthy cells to thrive.
Again, MSM is being used with success in treating breast, prostate and liver cancers! (See MSM above).
#10 Joint Issues And Arthritis
Managing leaky gut and inflammation are a big part of controlling your dog’s joint or arthritis pain. Growth factors in colostrum can help repair tissue damage. MSM is in many joint supplements and can help manage pain and inflammation. It’s also important for helping maintain cartilage.
#11 Flu Prevention
Colostrum can prevent upper respiratory diseases. It can also prevent the flu better than vaccination. In fact, a 2007 study showed that colostrum was “at least 3 times more effective than vaccination.” A 2013 study found that a lactoferrin-whey protein supplement can cut down on colds. Only 48 of the participants got sick vs 112 in the placebo group. And patients who did get colds were sick for shorter periods.
If your dog goes to daycare or boarding, giving colostrum could help him avoid flu or kennel cough.
Another study in 2013 showed that dogs’ immune function improved with colostrum. And if he’s vaccinated (though we hope not!) … the same study suggested colostrum may improve the vaccine response.
#12 Topical Use
You can use colostrum topically to speed skin repair and wound healing. Its antibacterial effects can also help with skin infections. Make a paste of powdered colostrum mixed with distilled water and apply it to …
- skin infections
- wounds (including surgical wounds)
- insect bites
- hot spots
- ear infections
Choosing A Good Colostrum
Colostrum quality varies a lot. So here are some guidelines to help you choose a high-quality supplement.
- Find a colostrum that comes from pasture-raised, rBGH-free cows. rBGH is a genetically engineered growth hormone. Dairies use it to boost milk production. Any genetically engineered product carries potential health risks, maybe even cancer. It’s banned in many countries, including Canada, the EU, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
- Make sure the source of colostrum doesn’t use antibiotics in cows’ feed. Dairies often use antibiotics to prevent mastitis and other diseases.
- Ask your provider for an independent Certificate of Analysis. Make sure the product doesn’t have harmful bacteria. Watch for heavy metals or other contaminants too.
- There are ethical considerations too. Calves need colostrum from their mothers, especially in the first 48 hours. Ask your supplier when they harvest colostrum. Look for products where the calves get the colostrum they need in their first hours. Sometimes veal farms remove calves from their mothers at a young age … avoid colostrum from those farms.
How Much Colostrum Do Dogs Need?
Colostrum is best fed on an empty stomach … but you can feed it with a small amount of yogurt or broth. Gloria Dodd DVM recommends giving it for one month, then as needed.
If you’re giving a powder, give 1/3 teaspoon per 25 lbs of body weight, twice daily,
If your colostrum comes in capsules, give small dogs 1 cap twice a day. Medium to large dogs can have 2 caps twice daily.
Don’t give your dog colostrum if he’s allergic to dairy products. Colostrum comes from milk and may cause a sensitive dog to react.
Some people also ask whether you can give colostrum if your dog has a beef intolerance. The answer is, in most cases it’s safe.
But studies show some children with beef allergies may be more prone to dairy allergies. So, if your dog has allergic reactions to beef, make sure he can tolerate dairy before you use colostrum.
As you see, colostrum can help with a wide range of health problems in your dog. It’s inexpensive … and easy to dose because of its mild flavor. Holistic veterinarian Stephen Blake DVM says colostrum can help with many conditions. He finds it can strengthen other treatments like homeopathy, acupuncture and flower essences.
Dr Blake says,
“That this natural package contains all the immune and growth factors necessary for life is no accident … and should be considered in any health related problem.”