You probably hear the word antioxidants every day, but do you know what they actually are and how they can benefit your dog?
Antioxidants are substances that work in the body to reduce cellular oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical process that occurs within the body’s cells, releasing free radicals and peroxides. Free radicals are also generated when the body is exposed to environmental pollutants such as smoke or air pollution and harmful chemicals such as insecticides and pesticides. These cellular by-products are potentially toxic to cells and can overwhelm the body’s natural immune system. As a natural defense, the body produces antioxidants to neutralize the harmful oxidation process.
Antioxidants occur naturally in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. Vitamins A, C, E and the minerals selenium, manganese and zinc are all examples of these powerful free radical eliminating substances.
Antioxidant-rich foods include blueberries, apples, carrots, kale, spinach, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. A few antioxidants such as Vitamin E are added to commercial dog food to prevent the oxidation of fats and prevent the food from becoming rancid. However, the best sources are naturally found nutrients found in fresh, wholesome foods.
So what are some conditions that your dog may benefit from the addition of antioxidants to their diet?
The leading characteristic of any inflammatory disease is free radical production. The addition of antioxidants to the diet can help to eliminate the inflammatory effects of arthritis and slow the progression of the disease.
There are various causes of cataracts in dogs, including senile cataract formation, genetics, and diabetes. Studies have shown however that nutrition and the addition of antioxidants to the diet can have a protective role in preventing or delaying cataracts.
The addition of antioxidants to the diet can reduce the risk of heart disease. Vitamin C protects the heart and speeds healing, while vitamin E strengthens capillary walls. Antioxidants are believed to reduce the oxidative stress and improve heart function, potentially alleviating cases of congestive heart failure.
If your dog suffers from allergies that include skin and coat problems, they may benefit from the addition of immune boosting and inflammation-reducing antioxidants.
Immune Disorders: Dogs with the most common autoimmune disorders hypothyroidism and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) may benefit from the oxidation-reducing and anti-inflammatory effects of antioxidants.
Perhaps the disease with the greatest benefit received from antioxidants. Vitamin A helps to control the growth of cancer, Vitamin C breaks down cancer’s resistance to drug therapy, Vitamin E is believed to inhibit the growth of cancer, and Selenium helps to prevent tumors from developing while reducing the toxicity of chemotherapy in cooperation with vitamins A and E. Be sure to discuss the inclusion of antioxidants into a cancerous dog’s diet with your veterinarian, however, due to the fact that high doses have been shown to interfere with some chemotherapy medications and radiation treatments.
Whether your dog is healthy or fighting a disease, the addition of a few fresh fruits and vegetables to their diet can benefit them by adding longevity, protect from toxins, and provide immune support. While people eat a diet that includes enough fresh fruits and vegetables, most dogs eat a diet of commercial pet food that contains very small amounts of natural antioxidants. As always, avoid adding grapes, onions, or avocados to your pet’s diet, as these are potentially toxic!
John Frierson is founder of LivelyPet, a companion pet health and lifestyle website. LivelyPet is dedicated to consulting pet owners in achieving quality health for their pet through proper nutrition. Working in conjunction with their veterinarian, John’s goal is to help pets and their owners achieve the healthiest and happiest lifestyles possible. He firmly believes that a big part of this starts at home, and most importantly, in the kitchen. Growing up with a diverse collection of pets, some requiring special diets, he developed his passion for nutrition. He is currently working on completing his Certified Pet Nutritionist certification (almost done!), and resides in Cape Coral, Florida with his wife, four children, and three Min-Pin fur kids. John can be reached at livelypet.net. Also look for him on Facebook at facebook.com/livelypet, and twitter @livelypet!