Natural resistance

The dog, like most multicellular organisms, has a vast array of defense mechanisms. Some of the most effective defense mechanisms are not part of the immune system but are classified as natural resistance. Natural resistance is defined as defense mechanisms which prevent or combat disease-causing agents by nonimmunologic means (without memory or specificity). Examples of canine natural resistance are barriers (skin, mucous membranes), commensal organisms (normal bacterial and viral flora), mechanical action (mucociliary tree, coughing, and desquamation), flushing action (urine, saliva, tears, milk and diarrhea), chemical and enzymatic action (gastric acid, digestive enzymes, lysozyme, and complement), nonspecific phagocytosis (macrophages and polymorphonuclear neutrophils), hormonal (a and |3 interferon), iron-chelating agents (lactoferrin), and natural killer cells. Although the dog does not have unique natural resistance mechanisms, it is important to understand the role of natural resistance in aiding the canine immune system. Natural resistance is the first line of defense against disease. Without natural resistance, the immune system would be overwhelmed and the dog or any other organism could not survive. It is only when natural resistance fails to prevent or eliminate disease-causing agents that the immune system has a role in disease control.

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