It’s spring and that means it’s high season for dog allergies.
So I want to tell you about a simple supplement that could help relieve your dog’s itchy skin or snuffly nose.
That supplement is colostrum … and there are more than 1,000 clinical studies on the its benefits.
And a lot of the studies examine colostrum’s role in preventing and relieving allergy symptoms.
So before you run out and stock up on antihistamines for your dog … let’s see how nature’s perfect first food can help your dog this allergy season.
What Is Colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk that mammals produce right after giving birth.
The colostrum in breast milk is full of nutrients. It’s about half protein … and it’s rich in fat, vitamins and minerals that help young animals grow.
Colostrum helps develop the newborn’s immune system. It contains vital antibodies that protect young animals from bacteria and viruses.
That’s why infants who aren’t breast-fed have weaker immune systems. And infants who aren’t breastfed also get more allergies.They missed out on colostrum.
Colostrum can offer the same benefits to adult animals too.
Colostrum And Your Dog’s Allergies
Allergies are a sign your dog’s immune system is struggling to regulate itself. When your dog’s immune system is out of whack, it can react to substances (like fleas, food or grass) that it shouldn’t.
So improving your dog’s immune system is an essential part of resolving allergies.
Colostrum contains 2 important substances that can help with your dog’s allergies: PRP and antibodies.
Proline-Rich Polypeptides (PRPs)
Colostrum’s PRP content is its claim to fame.
PRP stands for proline-rich polypeptide. It’s the component in colostrum that triggers an active immune response.
PRPs are short chains of amino acids. They can down-regulate an overly-active immune system that causes allergies. They stimulate a proper response to toxins, bacteria or allergens by controlling the cytokine response. Cytokines are inflammatory immune cells.
Here’s how that works …
PRPs help the thymus gland release factors that regulate immune functions. They help shift a humeral immune response (which produces antibodies to disease) … to a more protective cell-mediated response (which kills off diseased cells).
This is called a TH2 to TH1 shift). The TH1 shift helps limit inflammatory cascades that are common with allergies and sensitivities.
Over-production of TH2 cytokines leads to allergies. It also activates and releases mast cells that cause itchy skin.
So … shifting the immune system to a more balanced TH1 immunity … helps curb allergy symptoms.
This also means PRPs have anti-inflammatory effects … reducing the impact of histamines that are released with allergies.
And finally, PRPs are antioxidant. Research shows they can reduce the damage from free radicals and oxidized fats in cells. (Free radicals are damaged cells that steal from other cells in your dog’s body … and they can cause long term harm.)
Luckily, PRPs aren’t species-specific. So your dog can benefit from colostrum from other species such as cows, sheep or goats. The most common form of colostrum is bovine, from cows.
Antibodies In Colostrum
Colostrum is rich in antibodies that form part of your dog’s passive immunity. The antibodies (or immunoglobulins) in bovine colostrum include IgA, IgM and IgG.
Both IgA and IgG antibodies play a key role in allergies.
Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies give young animals passive immunity until their immune system matures. These antibodies can bind to viruses and pathogens and neutralize them.
IgG antibodies can also bind to and neutralize allergens.
Studies also show IgG antibodies from bovine colostrum can prevent gastrointestinal (GI) tract infections and LPS-induced inflammation (LPS means lipopolysaccharide).
LPS is an endotoxin that can cause an immune reaction in your dog. (You’ll see why this matters when I talk later about leaky gut.)
Finally, IgG antibodies from bovine colostrum have been shown to support the gut lining. This has important implications for leaky gut, which I’ll cover in a bit.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies are another important class of antibodies. Your dog makes more IgA antibodies than any other kind.
IgA antibodies don’t circulate in the blood like other antibodies do. These special antibodies live in the mucosal surface of the intestines … where they regulate the immune system.
IgA antibodies can prevent the growth of pathogenic (bad) bacteria. And research shows they can also help grow beneficial bacteria.
Colostrum also contains lactoferrin, a protein that can act as a prebiotic and feed good bacteria in the gut.
Which leads me to another benefit of colostrum …
Colostrum And Leaky Gut
One of the main functions of colostrum is to build a healthy gut in newborns. After all, 80% of the immune system lies in the gut. So a healthy gut leads to a healthy body.
Colostrum can support gut health in adult animals too … by helping to manage leaky gut.
Leaky gut happens when the gut lining is damaged. This damage has many causes: shifts in bacteria populations, toxins, stress and drugs (especially antibiotics and vaccines).
In leaky gut, the cells lining the digestive tract become inflamed and start to pull apart. This leaves spaces between the cells where undigested food particles and toxins can leak into the blood stream.
That starts a cascade of inflammation that increases your dog’s risk of chronic health issues … including allergies and food sensitivities.
Remember I mentioned LPS earlier? In leaky gut, LPS can pass into the blood. It then travels to the organs … and spreads the endotoxins throughout the body.
How Colostrum Helps With Leaky Gut
Colostrum can help prevent and reverse leaky gut in two ways:
First, lactoferrin can bind to LPS and other endotoxins. This neutralizes the inflammation they can cause.
Second, colostrum provides your dog with IgA antibodies.
Low levels of IgA antibodies can be a factor underlying leaky gut.
Both IgA and IgG antibodies protect the mucosal lining in your dog’s gut. Mucus forms a barrier between the bacteria and toxins in your dog’s gut … and the delicate cells lining the digestive tract.
A thick, healthy mucosal lining coats the digestive tract. It helps keep toxins and allergens inside the digestive tract … and out of your dog.
Topical Colostrum For Allergies
When you use it topically, colostrum can help repair your dog’s skin and ease the itchiness.
Make a paste using powdered colostrum mixed with distilled water.
Apply it to your dog’s skin. Pay special attention to areas that are very itchy … or have visible signs of allergies, like a rash.
Choosing A Good Colostrum
Here’s how to choose a high-quality colostrum supplement.
- Make sure it’s from pasture-raised, rBGH-free cows. rBGH is a genetically engineered growth hormone that boosts milk production. Like any genetically engineered product, it’s risky for your dog. In fact many countries, including Canada and the EU, ban it.
- Check that it’s antibiotic-free. Dairies often use antibiotics to prevent mastitis and other diseases.
- Ask for an independent Certificate of Analysis. Confirm your product doesn’t have harmful bacteria, heavy metals or other contaminants.
- Ethical concerns. Calves need colostrum from their mothers, especially in the first 48 hours. Ask your supplier when they harvest colostrum. You want a supplier who lets the calves get the colostrum they need in their first hours.
How Much Colostrum To Feed
Colostrum usually comes in powdered form. Give 1/8 teaspoon colostrum powder for every 25 lbs body weight, once daily.
If you buy capsules made for humans, assume the dose is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.
Colostrum is best on an empty stomach … but you can give it with a small amount of yogurt or broth.
Feed colostrum for at least one month, then as needed.
Some dogs are sensitive to dairy products. Colostrum comes from milk and may cause a sensitive dog to react.
Some dog-owners also ask whether colostrum is safe for dogs with beef intolerances. The answer is … in most cases it’s okay.
But studies show some children with beef allergies may be more prone to dairy allergies. So, if your dog is sensitive to beef, make sure he can tolerate dairy before you use colostrum.
So … now you see how colostrum can be a powerful addition to your dog’s diet. If your dog has environmental or food sensitivities or allergies, give it a try!