The benefits of colostrum for your dog or cat are provided by certain key elements that have special nutritive qualities that benefit mammals like canines and felines. Colostrum is the pre-milk fluid produced from a mother's mammary glands during the first few hours after birth (72 hours after birth for human mothers, 0-8 hours for bovine/cow mothers) that provides life-supporting immune and growth factors that ensure the health and vitality of the newborn. These elements found in colostrum can have numerous health benefits for all mammals as they age and experience health challenges.
Colostrum contains insulin-like growth factors (IGF I and II) that help to accentuate cell reproduction and repair essential to reducing the effects of aging. In addition, IGF growth factors energize the body by improving nutrient uptake helping to increase bone mass, build lean muscle and restore skin elasticity.
Colostrum also contains growth hormone, sometimes referred to as the “youth hormone”, that aids in the regeneration of organs and tissue to help slow the signs of aging as animals mature.
We have witnessed tremendous benefits to the skin while using colostrum for clients’ pets. Animals that endured raw, sensitive paws for years and required the use of some sort of covering just to go for a walk experienced healing in days to weeks when supplemented with high-quality colostrum. Canines with thin coats where you could see through to the skin grew in thick, healthy coats after using colostrum for a short time. These wonderful benefits are most likely due to the epithelial growth factor present in colostrum that encourages normal skin growth and repair by stimulating the epithelial cells of a dog or cat’s skin.
Colostrum can benefit an animal’s immune system tremendously. This is of course very important as a healthy functioning immune system can slow the signs of aging and reduce the occurrence of infections and serious, chronic disease.
One of the reasons colostrum has this effect on a dog or cat’s body is because of the presence of immunoglobulins, commonly called antibodies, which help to neutralize pathogens when encountered in the lymphatic and circulatory systems. Immunoglobulins help to transfer immunity from mother to child to help prevent young animals from getting sick as their own immune systems develop. This can be used to great advantage for debilitated pets or to bolster the immune system defenses of otherwise healthy animals.
Colostrum also contains lactoferrin, which is a component of the immune system that has antimicrobial activity. It is part of the innate immune defense that provides antibacterial protection to newborn animals and its immune regulating attributes can benefit pets of all ages.
Perhaps my favorite elements of colostrum are the proline-rich polypeptides. These factors act to establish homeostasis (balance) in the thymus gland (master immune gland) by helping to keep it in balance between under and over-activity. This has so many potential benefits for dogs and cats, whether it is to maintain an optimum performing immune system for overall health, to boost immune activity or to reduce immune activity in the case of allergies, other inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases.
Colostrum also contains numerous other elements that have beneficial attributes for your dog or cat. Some of these are essential, meaning they are not produced by the body and have to be provided in the form of food or supplementation. These include 17 essential amino acids, the building blocks of muscle and connective tissue; glyconutrients, master communicators that encourage white blood cell activity; and essential fatty acids that have numerous nutritive benefits.
Colostrum also contains whole food building blocks that your pet's body can utilize to maintain optimum health. Elements such as leptin, that can benefit the health of the thyroid gland, and vitamins A and B12 that play a role in healthy skin, bone growth, vision, red blood cell production and a healthy functioning nervous system.
As you can see, the benefits of colostrum for dogs, cats and other pets can almost appear limitless. Colostrum offers a broad spectrum of biologically active substances to support the immune, nervous, skeletal and endocrine systems. Colostrum can benefit apparently healthy animals by maintain the youthful function of organ systems and it can help debilitated pets that are suffering from a host of disease states all too common in our canine and feline companions. It is very important to supplement with high-quality, true colostrum in order to derive all of the special benefits. This is because many of the products marketed as colostrum are in fact transitional milk which is the substance that follows the secretion of colostrum and is not nearly as rich in the health promoting substances.
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Puotinen, CJ. (2000). The encyclopedia of natural pet care (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Keats Publishing.
Dekel, Dr. M. Bovine colostrum, immunity and the aging process. Retrieved from http://www.drdekel.com/content/bovine-colostrum-immunity-and-aging-process
Minton, Barbara L. New studies continue to reveal the health benefits of colostrum. Retrieved from http://www.naturalnews.com/022851_Colostrum_studies_health.html