Antioxidants for Dogs

In recent years, more research has been devoted to the study of antioxidants for dogs. Current research indicates antioxidants play a similar role in both humans and canines. Antioxidants are molecules that hinder the breakdown or change of other molecules (this is called oxidation). They are usually found in vitamins and minerals.

The oxidation process in some molecules results in formation of free radicals. Free radicals are believed to decrease the effectiveness of the body’s immune system. They are also linked to the aging process. 

Rust is an example of oxidation. Oxidizing molecules create a chain reaction, in which the iron interacts with oxygen forming rust. The rust will continue to spread throughout the object, unless measures are taken to stop the process. Free radicals behave similarly in the body.

Canines, like humans do not produce antioxidants. Dogs obtain antioxidants from the vitamins and minerals in their food. Since the canine diet differs from human, the roles of some antioxidants in the canine body are not fully understood. 

Carotenoids as Antioxidants

Carotenoids are the molecules responsible for color in most plants. These include beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. 

Beta-carotene is a major source of vitamin A. It is essential in the development of bones and cartilage. It is also important in the maintenance of healthy vision. Synthetic vitamin A has shown promise in the treatment of certain canine skin conditions. Canines do not eat plant-based diets; therefore, they obtain most vitamin A from eggs, dairy products and liver. 

Lutein is essential to eye health and it may boost the immune system. In recent studies, canines suffering from cataracts benefit from lutein in the diet. It is found in leafy green vegetables and egg yolks. 

Lycopene is found tomatoes and other red colored fruits and vegetables. The role of lycopene in the canine diet is not understood. Researchers are currently studying the effectiveness of lycopene as a chemotherapy drug. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is known for its antioxidant effect on the immune system. Additionally, vitamin E is important in reproduction and circulatory functions. Canines with diets high in polyunsaturated fats need additional vitamin E sources. 

The efficacy of vitamin E decreases, if it is administered in synthetic supplement form. Research indicates the body processes natural and synthetic forms differently, and potency may be increased by more than 200 percent in natural form. Natural sources include liver and organ meats, sunflower, wheat germ and almond oil. 

Zinc, Copper, Manganese and Selenium

Trace minerals also behave as antioxidants. Small amounts of selenium protect cells and facilitate thyroid function. Copper is important in red blood cell, bone and tissue formation. Manganese contributes to protein function and the ability to create fatty acids. Zinc is important for healthy skin and hair. It also assists the immune system. 

Most dog foods contain sufficient amounts of trace minerals. Plants absorb minerals through the soil, which are then consumed by animals. These minerals should not be given in supplement form, unless advised to do so, by your veterinarian. High levels can cause toxicity and death. 

Always consult with your veterinarian before administering supplements. In most cases, supplements act as antioxidants, but in larger doses, they can cause complications.