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Antioxidants in Pet Food – Guide on Benefits, Sources and Types

If it weren’t for free radicals, we won’t need antioxidants for dogs or in dog food. But what are antioxidants? What are free radicals? What are the benefits of antioxidants for healthy dogs as well as for dogs with health issues such as cancer, liver problems, and even aging dogs?

In this blog, we’ll explore all these questions in detail so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to add antioxidant-rich foods or supplements to your dog’s diet.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes (proteins in the body that catalyze biochemical reactions). They are believed to play a role in preventing oxidative damage to nutrients and other compounds in the dog’s body inhibiting the formation of free radicals.

When the body metabolizes food, it uses oxygen in a process that creates free radicals. Free radicals are also formed when a dog is exposed to environmental toxins such as pollution, cigarette smoke, herbicides, and ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

The problem with free radicals is that they are unstable molecules that damage cells, proteins and DNA. This damage has been linked to the development of cancer, heart disease and other degenerative diseases.

Antioxidants work by donating one of their electrons to stabilize the free radical, thus preventing it from damaging cells (a process known as oxidation).

According to the 2006 NRC’s Report on Nutrient Requirements of Cats and Dogs, many conditions such as cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and other degenerative conditions, and even the aging process itself have been linked to oxidation.

The NRC report went further to argue that oxidative damage and free-radical formation cannot be prevented entirely and that antioxidants can curtail the process to some extent.

What are some examples of good natural antioxidants?

  1. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C),
  2. Alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E),
  3. Beta-carotene, and
  4. Enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase

Are antioxidants safe?

Natual and mineral-dependent antioxidants are safe but synthetics antioxidants have been linked to other health complications in pets.

If you see any type of antioxidants on a pet food label, check to see which type they are. Natural antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, as well as beta-carotene, are safe and actually essential nutrients for dogs.

However, there is some concern over the safety of man-made or synthetic antioxidants such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and ethoxyquin.

These synthetic antioxidants are added to pet foods to extend their shelf life, but they have been linked to health problems such as cancer in some studies. In fact, ethoxyquin is so controversial that it has been banned for use in human food in Europe and Australia. BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin made it to our list of 6 toxic pet food preservatives to avoid.

Do all dogs need antioxidants?

The short answer is NO. Not all dogs need antioxidants in their diet. A healthy dog that isn’t exposed to toxins and eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet will likely get all the antioxidants he needs from his food.

However, certain health conditions, as well as exposure to environmental toxins, may increase a dog’s need for antioxidants. For example, dogs with liver disease or cancer may benefit from an antioxidant-rich diet or supplements since they are more susceptible to oxidative damage.

Older dogs may also benefit from an antioxidant-rich diet as they are more likely to have age-related degenerative diseases that are linked to oxidative damage.

What are the benefits of antioxidants for dogs?

Antioxidants counteract the damaging effects of chronic inflammation, which is present in a range of health conditions mentioned above. Antioxidants might be beneficial to any persistent inflammatory disease.

Protect cells and body tissues from damage:

Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and prevent or repair damage to cells and body tissues.

Boost the immune system: Antioxidants can help boost the immune system by reducing oxidative stress.

Reduce inflammation: Oxidative stress has been linked to inflammation, so antioxidants may help reduce inflammation.

Prevent or delay degenerative diseases: Antioxidants may help prevent or delay the onset of degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.

What are the best sources of antioxidants for dogs?

There are three sources of antioxidants for dogs: natural synthetic and mineral-dependent sources.

Synthetic antioxidants:

Synthetic antioxidants are man-made and can be found in some processed foods as well as in certain supplements. The most common synthetic antioxidants are BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), and ethoxyquin.

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole):

BHA is a preservative that is used to preserve fats and fat-containing products because it inhibits the rancidification of food, which results in noxious odors. According to this Wiki Page, BHA is able to stabilize free radicals, sequestering them and by acting as free radical scavengers, BHA prevents further free radical reactions. It is also found in some cosmetics, rubber products, and oils.

BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene):

BHT is used for the same purpose as BHA. It is a white, crystalline solid that is insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents. It is used as an antioxidant food additive and can be found in cereals, nut butters, dehydrated potatoes, and even some cosmetics.

Ethoxyquin:

Ethoxyquin is a synthetic antioxidant that is used as a preservative in animal feed, specifically fish meal. It is also used as a rubber stabilizer and as a pesticide. Ethoxyquin has been shown to be hepatotoxic (toxic to the liver) in rats.

Natural antioxidants:

Natural antioxidants can be found in fresh fruits and vegetables as well as in certain oils. The most common natural antioxidant vitamins are vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in the canine body and is found in high concentrations in the liver. Vitamin E is found in highest concentrations in the heart, muscles, and brain.

Vitamin A:

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be found in animal products such as liver, kidney, eggs, and dairy. Vitamin A is important for vision, immune function, and reproduction.

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that can be found in fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits. Vitamin C is important for wound healing, immune function, and the health of connective tissue.

Vitamin E:

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables. Vitamin E is important for the health of red blood cells and the nervous system.

Common fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, prunes, plums, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, kale, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

Colostrum:

Colostrum is the first milk produced by mammals after giving birth and is rich in antibodies and immune factors. It has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties.

According to Hiroyuki et al.,(1999) colostrum has lactoferrin, an antioxidant component that scavenges free radicals and protects cells from damage.

Another study also found that it has hemopexin, another excellent antioxidant that scavenges free radicals and protects cells from oxidative damage(Smith, 1988).

β-Carotene:

This is a precursor to vitamin A and can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, and other dark leafy greens. Upon oral ingestion by a dog, β-Carotene gets taken up by plasma leukocytes and studies(Chew et al., 2000b,c,d) have shown that it stimulates an immune response in dogs.

Polyphenols:

Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant found in plants. There are over 8,000 different types of polyphenols and they can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Polyphenols have many health benefits including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Flavonoids:

Flavonoids are a type of polyphenol and can be found in the same foods as polyphenols. There are over 6,000 different types of flavonoids and they can be divided into six main groups: flavanones, flavones, flavonols, anthocyanidins, isoflavones, and proanthocyanidins. Flavonoids have many health benefits including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Lycopene:

Lycopene is a type of flavonoid that is found in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, and papayas. Lycopene has many health benefits including reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Lutein:

Lutein is a type of flavonoid that is found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens. Lutein has many health benefits including reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Mineral-Dependent Antioxidants

The body’s antioxidant enzymes, which are present in all tissues, contain many trace minerals. Selenium (glutathione peroxidase); copper, zinc, manganese (superoxide dismutase); and iron (catalase) are examples of these.

Unlike dietary antioxidants, mineral-dependent antioxidants are produced within the body and function to protect cells by scavenging free radicals and repairing the damage.

Some of the best oils for dogs that are high in antioxidants include olive oil, coconut oil, and salmon oil.

Why are antioxidants prescribed to pets?

Vets often prescribe antioxidants to pets with certain chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. Antioxidants can help reduce the symptoms of these conditions and might even help prevent or delay their onset.

While the canine body has the ability to try to neutralize reactive compounds, the canine body can get depleted of these natural antioxidants when inflammation persists. The accumulation of reactive oxygen can damage healthy organs and can lead to the formation of cancer cells.

Antioxidants can help to prevent this damage by scavenging these reactive oxygen compounds and by repairing the damage that has already been done.

Antioxidants are essential in reducing the oxidative damage caused by chronic inflammation caused by longstanding allergic dermatitis or chronic arthritis

What are some symptoms of an antioxidant deficiency in dogs?

While a lack of antioxidants can lead to a number of health problems, the most common symptom is inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s response to oxidative stress and can damage healthy cells and tissues.

Other symptoms of an antioxidant deficiency include:

  • Dry, dull coat
  • Hair loss
  • Slow wound healing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy

Other clinical symptoms that may need diagnosis include;

  • Cellular damage
  • Immune system problems
  • Increased risk of degenerative diseases

FAQs

What is the difference between natural and synthetic antioxidants?

Natural antioxidants are found in foods such as fruits and vegetables, while synthetic antioxidants are man-made.

While both types of antioxidants can offer health benefits, natural antioxidants are generally considered to be more effective and safer.

What is the best way to give my dog antioxidants?

The best way to give your dog antioxidants is through a healthy diet.

You can also give your dog supplements, but it is important to talk to your vet first. Some supplements can interact with medications your dog is taking or cause other health problems.

How do I know if my dog’s food has enough antioxidants?

The best way to make sure your dog’s food has enough antioxidants is to talk to your veterinarian. They can help you choose a food that is right for your dog’s needs.

You can also look for foods that are labeled “complete and balanced” by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These foods must meet certain standards for nutrient content, including antioxidants.

What are some foods that are high in antioxidants?

Some foods that are high in antioxidants include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, prunes, plums, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, kale, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

What are some of the best oils for dogs that are high in antioxidants?

Some of the best oils for dogs that are high in antioxidants include olive oil, coconut oil, and salmon oil.

These oils can help to improve your dog’s coat and skin health, and they can also offer other health benefits.

Coconut Oil:

Coconut oil is a versatile product that can be used for cooking, as a skin moisturizer, and even as a treatment for some medical conditions.

Recent studies have shown that coconut oil can also offer some health benefits for dogs. Coconut oil is rich in antioxidants and can help to improve your dog’s coat and skin health. It can also help to reduce inflammation and improve joint health.

If you are looking for a healthy oil to add to your dog’s diet, coconut oil is a great option. Just be sure to talk to your veterinarian first, as too much coconut oil can lead to weight gain.

Salmon Oil:

Salmon oil is another healthy choice for dogs. Salmon oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have a number of health benefits.

Omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation, improve joint health, and boost the immune system. They can also help to improve your dog’s coat and skin health. Salmon oil is also a good source of antioxidants.

If you are looking for a healthy oil to add to your dog’s diet, salmon oil is a great option. Just be sure to talk to your veterinarian first, as too much salmon oil can lead to weight gain.

Olive Oil:

Olive oil is a healthy choice for dogs. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and can help to improve your dog’s coat and skin health. It can also help to reduce inflammation and improve joint health.

The Bottom Line

There are a number of healthy oils that you can add to your dog’s diet. Coconut oil, salmon oil, and olive oil are all great choices. Just be sure to talk to your veterinarian first, as too much of any one oil can lead to weight gain.