cbd oil for dogs with overactive immune system

Autoimmune Disease in Dogs: Holistic Treatment

As an option now being explored by dog owners and veterinarians alike, understanding why CBD oil can be so effective for treatment requires a brief exploration into the nature of the immune system, how it works, and its best means of support. Finding the best CBD oil for dogs is a matter of finding the best producer.

Autoimmune disease in dogs is a result of their immune system losing its ability to distinguish between normal and foreign cells. This misperception causes the immune system to attack otherwise healthy cells. The effect is a degradation of whatever system is under siege. Diseases related to autoimmunity can affect any system in your dog’s body.

One of the most prevalent autoimmune diseases found in dogs is autoimmune thyroiditis , an epidemic among canines.

In the case of autoimmune thyroiditis, the immune system misperceives healthy thyroid gland cells as foreign bodies and begins killing them. The thyroid is a gland that secretes crucial hormones that, among other important functions, help to regulate metabolism and body temperature. Once enough healthy cells are gone, the thyroid becomes incapable of producing hormones and symptoms begin to show.

Early symptoms of autoimmune thyroiditis are subtle and can mimic those of other diseases. Most commonly reported telltale signs include weight gain, digestive disorders and behavioral changes.

While the causes of autoimmune thyroiditis in dogs are debated among researchers and veterinarians, a few suspects that have risen to the top, including:


A recent MSU study revealed that certain breeds are more likely to develop autoimmune thyroiditis and that breeding is at least partially responsible for the epidemic. Additionally, dogs that possess one or more autoimmune diseases are prone to develop other ones. Autoimmune diseases are self-perpetuating.


The same study showed a prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis in populations that had been vaccinated for various ailments. While vaccines can be effective for preventing disease, vaccines can also render you dog’s immune system hyperactive; possibly resulting in an autoimmune disease.


Some veterinarians argue that the use of collars instead of harnesses can cause autoimmune thyroiditis. The location of the thyroid gland is in the throat. Continuous irritation results in an inflammatory response and the immune system kicks-in to rectify the situation. Continued collar use results in continuous irritation, which shifts the immune system into overdrive and autoimmune thyroiditis can be the result.

CBD and Inflammation

Many of the symptoms for which CBD oil is being used to treat include a component of inflammation. Joint pain, skin rashes and swelling are all examples of an inflammatory response.

Inflammation is a condition often shared by autoimmune and non-autoimmune diseases alike. For instance, the conditions of arthritis, encephalitis, and lupus are all inflammatory in nature. Therefore, treatments that are anti-inflammatory can effectively alleviate symptoms and potentially reverse the condition.

CBD oil (made from hemp) is among the most potent, naturally occurring anti-inflammatories known to date and research continues to show how effective it can be on your dog’s overall health. The buck doesn’t stop at inflammation. CBD oil has been shown to help manage pain and seizures , alleviate cancer symptoms , increase mobility and decrease anxiety —to name only a few uses for CBD oil for dogs.

Why is CBD oil so effective for dogs?

CBD oil is a plant source of cannabinoids that can act as a booster for your dog’s own endocannabinoid system and can help support all its functions.

All mammals have an endocannabinoid system . Functions the endocannabinoid system support include appetite, memory, stress response, sleep, body temperature and the immune system.

Cannabinoids are the building blocks of the endocannabinoid system and are naturally occurring substances in your dog’s body.

Perhaps the most important systems CBD can support are the central nervous system (which includes stress response) and the immune system. These two systems work together to keep your dog in a state of homeostasis (or balance) and CBD oil helps lubricate both.

The best CBD oil for autoimmune disease in dogs

Introducing CBD into your dog’s diet early in life helps to establish a healthy foundation. Treating a condition that is already advanced is a lot harder than preventing it in the first place. As the saying goes, “the best offence is a good defence”.

The market is now flooded with a multitude of CBD products. Ointments, salves, lotions (to name just a few) are among topical CBD products now available. On the ingestible side of CBD there are pills, edibles, oils and tinctures.

Sorting through them all and finding the right fit for your dog can feel overwhelming. Topicals can be effective when used directly on conditions like skin rashes and inflamed joints. The problem with topicals is that the symptom is being treated and not the underlying cause.

The best CBD for dogs comes in the form of ingestible products sourced from a reputable manufacturer. For convenience some producers have created dog treats, which is a great way to introduce CBD into your dog’s diet. The results can be profound and are worth exploring .

The Best Natural Immunity Treatments & Solutions for Dogs & Cats

The Immune System & Autoimmune Disease in Dogs & Cats

The immune system is an intricate biological protection system responsible for determining what belongs to and in the body, versus what does not belong and requires elimination. It defends the body against infection, disease and foreign substances. The immune system begins with the skin and digestive system, and incorporates the glands, hormones, blood, and organs throughout the body. Immune support for dogs and cats will go a long way in preventing ill health and chronic disease.

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When we talk of immune support for dogs and cats, many people think of boosting or stimulating the immune system with herbs such as echinacea. Boosting immunity, however, is not always appropriate or required. In some cases, the immune system needs calming and balancing – as is the case for autoimmune disorders and frequently for chronic allergies.

Natural Treatment for Autoimmune Disease

A good, natural diet is the most important component in building and supporting a healthy immune system. Since your companion is dependent upon you to provide the best possible diet, it is prudent for you to educate yourself about the options available and the benefits of feeding the freshest, most wholesome diet you can. Please see our article, “What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food,” for more details.

Along with a top-quality diet, exercise, minimal exposure to toxins, and a low-stress living environment are of utmost importance to the health of your companion. If these elements are not attended to first, then adding supplements to boost the immune system or balance it will be far less useful or effective. Giving immune-supportive supplements to an animal without attending to the foundations of good health is like trying to heat a house with poor insulation and broken windows – you can turn the thermostat up as high as you like but the house will still be cold.

Many factors can have an adverse effect on your pet’s immune system, and addressing the following issues can play a big part in helping your pet stay healthy:

1. Minimizing pesticide & herbicide residue in foods

Pesticide and herbicide residues are found on nearly 50% of produce in a 2017 study, and 25% of grains. These are chemicals designed to kill living organisms – not something we want our companions consuming on a daily basis. Organic foods have been shown to have higher nutrient values than their conventional counterparts. There are more and more organic foods available for our companions, and some manufacturers make an effort to use free-range, hormone- and/or antibiotic-free meats in their products. While a totally organic diet can be a bit expensive for those with larger animals or many mouths to feed, adding some organic foods can be helpful in limiting pesticide exposure.

2. Providing fresh food versus highly processed food

Highly processed food, such as dry kibble, loses vital nutrients during the manufacturing process. Some vitamins and minerals are added back in – typically artificial forms of these nutrients. Fresh food contains enzymes that aid in digestion. Fresh vegetables contain antioxidants and vitamins in their natural, more absorbent form. As with organic foods, even adding a portion of fresh foods such as raw meaty bones or lightly steamed or ground vegetables to the diet can be beneficial to the immune system.

3. Avoiding Chemical Insecticides and Flea & Tick Treatments

Chemical insecticides in your home, lawn and garden should be avoided for your companion’s sake. Our companion animals are much closer to the ground than we are, and breath in whatever chemical residues are on the floor and furniture. They also come into contact with chemicals used on the grass in your yard or local park. Animals groom these residues from their coat and paws by licking their skin and fur, thereby ingesting the residues. There are natural alternatives to the chemical products used by exterminators and used in lawn and yard care.

Conventional spot-on insecticide flea and tick treatments such as those sold in most grocery and pet stores are a direct assault on your companion’s immune system. The pesticides from these products are absorbed into your animal’s system, adding stress to the liver and kidneys as well as the digestive system. Natural flea control options are safe and effective without negatively affecting your companion’s immune system.

4. Limiting Vaccinations

Vaccinations represent a major stress to the immune system. They can not only cause side effects and allergic reactions, they also contribute significantly to long-term chronic disease. Many holistic veterinarians agree that over-vaccination is a significant contributor to the rising rates of chronic disease in cats and dogs.

A limited vaccine program is highly recommended – and is especially important if your companion belongs to any of the breeds known to be more susceptible to cancer and chronic diseases. If your veterinarian is not supportive, you can look for a holistic veterinarian that may be more sympathetic. For more information about limited vaccination schedules please read our article, “What You Need to Know About Vaccinations.”

5. Avoiding Overuse of Medications

Antibiotics and steroids are necessary tools in any veterinarian’s trade, but they are quite often overused. Repeated rounds of antibiotics to address chronic UTI issues or steroids to treat itchy skin and allergies tax the immune system – sometimes leaving the animal susceptible to greater health problems than it started with. A natural approach to chronic health issues involves supporting the animal’s system in its healing process without the use of strong medications.

6. Helping Your Pet Get Exercise:

Moderate exercise has been shown to improve immune factors in humans and animals. Proper exercise is essential in maintaining a healthy immune system. Natural light is also important, so walks in the great outdoors are the best option for dogs. Indoor cats should be provided with plenty of toys and climbing structures. Open the windows on nice days so your cat(s) can breathe some fresh air – this is helpful in preventing and treating respiratory problems. Weight control is also key – overweight animals are much more susceptible to chronic and acute diseases and infections. Proper diet AND exercise are needed to help with weight control.

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7. Giving Nutritional Supplements

In addition to the best diet you can provide, there are some essential supplements that should be part of every animal’s daily diet. Essential fatty acids support healthy skin and coat as well as the digestive tract, which are the first line of defense for the immune system. Digestive enzymes and probiotics are vital for supporting good digestion, optimal nutrition and in maintaining a proper balance of balance of disease-fighting bacteria in the digestive tract.

8. Supplying Clean, Fresh Water

Depending on where you live, the tap water can be anywhere from almost acceptable to fairly toxic. The fluoride and chlorine added stress your companion’s elimination system. Filtered water is best, followed by bottled water and spring water. Flowing water will often encourage animals to drink more. Cats that eat a diet consisting mainly of dry food are chronically dehydrated. In the wild cats get most, if not all, of their hydration from the raw prey they consume.

9. Keeping A Healthy House:

Household cleaners and other products are another source of toxins your companion may have to deal with. Many cleaners, air fresheners, and laundry detergents contain bleach, ammonia and other chemicals that our companions breathe in and lick from their paws. Keeping the floors clean is important since the dirt tracked in from outside likely contains heavy metals and other toxins, but using more natural cleaning products will keep the household healthier. Plug-in air fresheners are another source of indoor pollution – they may smell nice, but the petrochemicals that carry their scent offer a constant dose of toxins to you and your companion.

10. Minimizing Stress

Stress effects pets and people – it weakens the immune system. Dogs and cats with anxiety issues of any kind need assistance in moderating their fears. Natural stress & anxiety support, like flower essences, homeopathic remedies and herbal remedies can be highly beneficial for animals with anxiety problems or that are under stress.

Behavioral modification training is essential for dogs with anxiety. Changing the environment in your home, for example, providing separate territories for cats that do not get along well, or additional litter boxes and cat trees or safe resting areas can make a big difference for anxious cats.

Remember to keep your companion’s emotional well-being in mind whenever there will be a change of routine. The holidays frequently involve many changes in environment and schedules, so think ahead about supporting their needs.

Enhancing or Balancing Natural Immunity

Once all of these aspects of the foundation of health have been addressed, many chronic illnesses such as allergies, respiratory illness, urinary tract problems and digestive issues may resolve themselves naturally. Every holistic veterinarian has hundreds of patients whose problems have gone away without further intervention once the foundations of diet, exercise, minimal exposure to toxins and stress have been addressed.

Some animals, however, have been battling ill health for too long, or may have inherited susceptibilities to certain diseases, and their immune systems will likely need additional assistance. Determining the nature of that assistance is the first step. For some illnesses it is necessary to boost the immune system – giving supplements that can increase the disease fighting mechanisms of the immune system. For other illnesses – mainly autoimmune disorders, it is necessary to balance or calm the immune system.

As you recall, the immune system’s job is to eliminate foreign substances from the body. In autoimmune disorders the animal’s system has lost some of its ability to distinguish what belongs and what does not belong, and begins to attack the cells of its own bodily tissues. Autoimmune diseases can affect a single system or can involve multiple areas of the body. The symptoms of autoimmune diseases are often the same as those for non-autoimmune diseases, so proper diagnosis is crucial.

A partial list of autoimmune diseases in pets includes:

  • Juvenile diabetes
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (reduction of red blood cells)
  • Autoimmune diseases of the skin such as Pemphigus Vulgaris
  • Myasthenia gravis (a nerve condition)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Polymyositis (a muscle condition)
  • Allergies (a hypersensitive immune system)

In the case of autoimmune disease, the immune system needs assistance in modulating its response. Plant sterols and sterolins are natural substances found in all fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. These plant nutrients have many unique health benefits including promoting balance of the immune system – enhancing an under-active immune system and modulating an overactive one. They provide support for the immune system to regulate itself and restore balance.

Antioxidants are also frequently helpful in treating autoimmune disorders as they assist the immune system in eliminating free radicals and reducing oxidative stress without directly stimulating an immune response. Antioxidants used to counter the effects of some autoimmune diseases include alpha lipoic acid, acetyl-l-carnitine, carnosine, coenzyme Q10, systemic enzymes, and rhodiola.

Boosting or stimulating the immune system is at times necessary for animals with acute or chronic illnesses or for those exposed to contagious disease. Viral diseases, infections and cancer are some of the disorders in which stimulating the immune system with herbs and supplements is called for. Many immune support supplements will include a combination of medicinal mushrooms, antioxidants, herbs that boost immunity such as astragalus, cat’s claw, pau d’arco, echinacea or green tea. Other supplements to consider include colostrum, DMG, olive leaf, and Chinese herbal formulas. Using antioxidant supplements in combination with immune stimulating herbs and supplements supports the immune system to an even greater extent.

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Puppies and kittens can benefit from colostrum to help boost their developing immune system for their first 3 to 4 months. Older companions may benefit from an immune support tonic formula. Tonic herbs are generally gentle, nutritive herbs used to stimulate and increase immune and organ function. They are commonly used for longer periods than stronger more specific herbal remedies and help the animal’s system handle the effects of stress maintain a healthier balance.

If you feel your companion needs immune system support, a consultation with a holistically trained veterinarian is the best place to start. Different conditions and disease presentations require different types of herbs or supplements. Diagnosis is also crucial so that an overactive immune system is not further stimulated with inappropriate remedies. For a qualified holistic veterinarian in your area, check the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Referral List.

Hemp and the Immune System

Hemp and the immune system – hemp compounds exert an interesting impact on the immune system. Though we aren’t sure exactly how hemp compounds affect the immune system, we know it has to do with the way the endocannabinoid system (ECS) controls cellular communication.

To be clear, the ECS consists of a series of cannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Healthy bodies produce endogenous cannabinoids on demand when the body experiences physical or emotional stress. Of course, to maintain balance this way, the ECS must influence many different body systems, including the immune system.

Unfortunately, bodies cannot always produce or metabolize endocannabinoids at an appropriate rate. As such, some experts speculate that consuming phytocannabinoids like CBD could help correct this imbalance. In doing, CBD may help modulate the immune system by regulating inflammation and other immune responses.

How the Immune System Functions

The immune system includes a network of organs, cells, and tissues working together to protect the body from foreign substances. This vital system works tirelessly to ward off viruses, bacteria, disease, and infection to help maintain health and longevity. It is also responsible for inducing apoptosis, or cell death, to prevent defective cells from multiplying and spreading.

Notably, the immune system may also attack foreign substances like transplant organs, or even healthy cells in the case of autoimmune diseases. Fortunately, as an immune system modulator, CBD may be able to address these issues, as well.

How CBD Affects the Immune System

There are five ways CBD may help boost immune system functioning: by increasing natural killer cells, improving gut health, minimizing inflammation, lowering stress levels, and modulating immune system activity. These combined qualities suggest that CBD can both activate the immune system and dull it depending on what the body needs at any given moment.

CBD and Natural Killer Cells

Natural killer cells are those that attack and kill foreign or dysfunctional cells. People with autoimmune disorders often have overactive killer cells, which prompt the body to attack and expel healthy cells. Interestingly, research suggests that CBD may help tame overactive killer cells in people with autoimmune disorders. On the other hand, CBD may also stimulate killer cell activity in people without autoimmune disorders. Essentially, CBD seems to regulate both over-and under-active immune responses as it works to maintain balance within the body.

CBD for Gut Health

The gastrointestinal system plays a major role in one’s overall health. Most people know that the GI system controls metabolism, but may not realize that it also produces neurotransmitters and regulates physiological and cognitive functions, as well. It does all of this thanks to a collection of microbes, or a collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in the GI tract. An imbalance in microbes, which is called dysbiosis, can cause significant health problems.

Fortunately, CBD may help improve gut health and regulate microbiome levels. Essentially, CBD may reduce inflammation caused by an imbalanced microbiome, thereby improving the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

CBD and Inflammation

Inflammation occurs throughout the entire body, not just the GI tract. For example, one study found that CBD reduces lung inflammation in rats, while another study found that CBD reduced arthritis-related inflammation . In doing, CBD may help reduce inflammation-related pain and improve lung functions.

CBD for Stress

Persistent stress can dampen immune system functioning. Specifically, chronic stress can cause the body to produce excessive levels of cortisol, which reduces natural anti-inflammatory actions. Fortunately, CBD might help reduce stress and subdue panic responses in some situations.

CBD as an Immunosuppressive

Autoimmune diseases are those in which an overactive immune system attacks healthy cells, organs, and tissues. This can cause certain body parts to weaken, which may be life-threatening in some cases. The most common autoimmune disorders include Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Interestingly, some research suggests that CBD may help tame an overactive immune system through its proposed anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive qualities.

Closing Thoughts on Hemp and the Immune System

CBD is a fascinating element, and we are only beginning to understand its potential. Though research is still young, we are learning that CBD may help promote a healthy immune system by regulating its functions and easing inflammatory responses.

Contact us to learn more about CBD and the immune system, or follow us on Facebook to join the discussion.

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