The immune system defends the body against invasion by foreign material. This can include microorganisms like viruses or bacteria, abnormal cells, or inhaled or injected substances. The cells that make up the immune system constantly surveil the body to maintain balance. When it functions normally, the immune system benefits the body, but malfunction can lead to disease and allergies. A deficient response by the immune system may result in recurrent infections.
How The Immune System Works
Cells in the immune system make antibodies against bacterial or viral antigens that are introduced by natural exposure or vaccination. If the immune system views the body’s own cells as foreign antigens, autoimmune disease develops and the body attacks normal cells instead of just the abnormal cells. If the body doesn’t attack abnormal cells, cancer may result.
Antibodies are just one aspect of the immune system. Beneficial bacteria, on the skin and in the intestines, have an active role in preventing disease. Therefore, building up the population of beneficial bacteria is just as important as building up antibodies. Healthy, species-appropriate diet, along with the use of high quality probiotics and avoidance of antibiotics will keep beneficial bacteria strong.
Stem cells made in the bone marrow form the beginning of the immune system. The bone marrow supplies healthy stem cells to the body when it is nourished by the food that is eaten. Without a good diet, the bone marrow will fail to make healthy stem cells. Species-appropriate, whole food diets form the basis of good health. Diets deficient in iron, copper, and B vitamins will not provide the necessary nutrients for bone marrow health.
The Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine View
From a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) perspective, there are six natural climate patterns that may become pathogenic patterns when found in excess; these can cause imbalance in the immune system, which results in disease. These pathogens are excess wind, excess cold, excess summer heat, excess dampness, excess dryness, and fire (heat). Depending on geographic location, these pathogens will be more prevalent at certain times of the year. By using food therapy and acupuncture, the pathogens can be reduced and disease may be prevented.
For example, during winter months the air will generally have less humidity due to external conditions as well as dry, forced-air heat in homes. The lungs are particularly susceptible to dryness; symptoms of asthma and cough may be increased during winter months. To combat this problem, pets can receive acupuncture to increase moisture (Yin) and clear dryness. Points like LU-7 and LU-9, found on the inside of the front knee, will strengthen the lungs. Foods like eggs, duck, honey, and goat milk will strengthen Yin.
The Effect Of Vaccinations
Vaccinations can cause an excess reaction in the body that is considered a heat toxin from a TCVM perspective. Certain conditions that may increase the toxic heat include:
(NOTE: Want to find out how often your dog should be vaccinated? Learn more here!)
Multiple Vaccinations At Once
Administering multiple pathogens will greatly increase the chances of the immune system being overwhelmed and of creating complications. When given a combination vaccine, multiple disorders are introduced deep into the body. The pathogenic Qi (energy) in the vaccine enters directly into the blood level, incubating there as hidden toxins indefinitely. Because of the direct introduction of pathogenic material into the blood and lymph, this can lead to a possible compromised immune system if the body can’t deal adequately with this scenario.
Many veterinarians continue to recommend annual boosters, even though all evidence shows multiple-year immunity from core vaccines.
Vaccinating While The Immune System Is Compromised
This is a clear contraindication, yet I see records where this has been performed many times. Vaccines should not be given at the time of surgery, illness, or during times of stress like hospitalization or boarding.
Preservatives In Vaccines
These substances can cause immune system reactions, particularly heavy metals like mercury. Ask your veterinarian for thimerosal-free vaccines.
Related: Five Dangerous Vaccines Ingredients
Pre-existing Weakened Immunity
This can happen due to genetic or environmental factors. Avoid vaccination if your dog’s immune system is impaired.
For many dog owners, lifestyle may dictate vaccination usage. Demands placed by veterinarians, boarding kennels, groomers, and day care facilities often leave pet owners in a situation where little choice is given. By strengthening the immune system and treating for toxic heat, the immune system will be better equipped to handle the assault of vaccination.
Minimizing Vaccine Damage
1. For two to three weeks before vaccinating, give your dog an immune-boosting tonic.
I like formulas with a good dose of huáng qí (astragalus). Huáng qí strengthens the spleen (digestion) in general, boosting immunity, strengthening digestion, and increasing energy.
Dose: Huang qi, or astragalus, can be given at 1 gram (1,000 mg) per 100 pounds of body weight, or 100 mg per 10 lbs, daily. It is readily available as a powder or in capsules.
Different types of ginseng are also effective. I also like to use medicinal mushrooms like shiitake, maitake, reishi, cordyceps and turkey tail.
Dose: Ginseng should be given at 100 mg per 25 pounds of body weight (4 mg per pound) two to three times daily. It can also be found as a tincture. Five to ten drops of a 1:5 tincture can be given two to three times daily.
2. Give a formula for Heat-Toxin for a few days after immunization. Ideally, you would use a formula specific for the pathogen in the immunization, but this is often difficult, especially when there are multiple pathogens. In these cases, a broad-spectrum anti-Heat-Toxin formula can be used such as Huang Lian Jie Du Tang (Coptis Decoction to Relieve Toxicity).
Dose: Huang Lian Jie Du Tang is given at 1 gram (1,000 mg) per 25 pounds body weight (40 mg per pound).
Most formulas and herbs are available from reputable online sources or at local health stores. Human formulations are fine.
Help For The Liver
The liver is the most important organ to address when detoxifying the body after vaccination. Many foods have an essence that resonates with the liver. Among them are:
- Bamboo shoots
- Broccoli rabe
- Milk thistle
- Dandelion greens
Small amounts of the beneficial foods can make a big impact on overall liver health. These foods can be fed raw, but should be finely minced, grated, or put through a food processor. As little as one to two teaspoons added to a pound of the regular diet will help.
Also, garlic, ginger and lemon have a warm essence that is very beneficial for liver function and health. Ginger tea or grated fresh ginger root can be added to your dog’s meals. Because sour is the taste associated with the liver, according to Five Element theory, sour foods like vinegar can really help this organ. Garlic, ginger, and lemon are needed only in small amounts, with ¼ to ½ teaspoon per pound of food giving the desired effect.
Boost Recovery With Acupressure
Stimulating acupuncture points associated with immune system function prior to vaccination or during times of stress will help pets recover more quickly. These include: ST-36, LI-4, LI-11, GV-14, and Bai Hui.
- ST-36 is found on the outside hind leg, just below the knee (stifle), in a depression in the middle of the muscle toward the front of the leg. It boosts general energy of body and is a powerful point for spleen, pancreas, stomach, and digestion.
- LI-4 is found inside the first toe, in the web between the first and second toes. It’s an important pain-reducing and immune system-building point.
- LI-11 is found in the elbow crease when flexed – an anti-inflammatory point. It’s good to use for pain relief, reducing fever, swelling, and it benefits the immune system.
- GV-14 is found on the midline of the back, where the neck vertebra meet the vertebra of the back. It can be found by lifting the head up and down; find the hinged place just in front of the big vertebra. Place your finger into the big hole there. This point supports the immune system.
- Bai Hui – is found at the lumbo-sacral junction on the midline in front of the pelvis.
For liver detoxification, the following points are particularly useful:
- LIV-3 is found on the hind leg between the first and second toes, about a third of the way between the top inside toe and the bottom of the ankle joint. Improves the immune system and drains liver heat.
- Use in conjunction with LI-4 and LI-11.
If you work with a holistic veterinarian, ask them to show you the location of the points. Otherwise, follow the above directions to get as close as possible.
Before trying acupressure, find a quiet, comfortable location where you and your pet can relax.
- Spread a blanket or cushion that your pet will lie on.
- Determine which points you would like to stimulate.
- Place your thumb or index finger on the point and apply steady pressure.
- Slowly increase the pressure and release after five to 15 seconds, depending on the reaction by your dog. If your dog shows a desire to move away, release the pressure.
- If he is tolerant, hold the pressure for a total of fifteen seconds.
- Repeat the procedure on all desired points. Be sure to stimulate the same point on both sides of the body (except Gv-14 and Bai Hui, which are on the centerline of the back).
By limiting the use of vaccinations and strengthening the immune system, along with detoxifying the liver after vaccines are given, you can improve the health of your dog.