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Antioxidants are Mother Nature's tool for repairing damaged cells and minimizing the aging process. They are found in food and their purpose is to protect the body against free radicals, which are molecules that harm enzymes and cell membranes. Free radicals are produced via energy production. They can be produced in large quantities when your pet has poor nutrition, experiences exposure to toxins, is getting along in age, or becomes sick.
Antioxidants work to destroy the cycle of damage caused by the free radicals. Examples of antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, selenium, taurine, coenzyme Q10 and zinc. If you feed your pet a balanced, good quality diet they should receive the antioxidants they need with every meal. A dog who has special dietary needs may benefit from additional supplementation. This is something you can discuss with your veterinarian.
How Can Antioxidants Benefit My Dog?
Antioxidants are made in the body but we also need to supplement the inventory by eating a healthy, fruit and vegetable-filled diet. Feeding your furry buddy a nutritionally stacked food puts the antioxidant cards in their favor. Let's take a closer look at how these powerhouses of nature can help your dog and why a supplementary source can be beneficial.
Antioxidants Top-up Low Body Reserves
Molecules called 'free radicals' damage cells. When this happens, natural processes within the body can be interrupted or sped up. Unstable atoms (the free radicals) attempt to attack the body's defense system. This is where the antioxidants come in and do their part and at the same time, top-up the necessary reserves.
Look for a high-quality dog food that includes some of the following in the ingredients. It is important to check that the dog food does contain fruits and vegetables, not just flavoring or coloring:
Green vegetables (the darker the better) such as spinach, broccoli, green beans, peas, kale, and asparagus
Orange vegetables such as carrots, squash, pumpkin, and yams
Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, cherries, cranberries, and blackberries
Antioxidants Shield Against the Environment
Let's take things a step further, and consider when giving a supplement could be beneficial. One such example is when a healthy dog is faced with an unhealthy challenge such as:
Radiation, including x-rays
Harmful chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, and pesticides
A highly processed diet.
This is because all of the above encourage free radicals formation. Under these circumstances, the body is overwhelmed and uses up all its natural antioxidants. This means giving an antioxidant supplement will boost the body's ability to repair itself.
Antioxidants Support Long Term Conditions
Another example of when an antioxidant supplement can be beneficial is when a dog has a long term illness. This is because many conditions such as Parkinson's Disease, cataracts, allergies, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer go hand-in-hand with altered cell membranes and tissue damage. Antioxidants help to improve the skin and coat, and are also known to boost the immune system. Older dogs who are showing signs of cognitive decline may see improvement in behavior when given an antioxidant-rich diet.
Overactive cells generate free radicals, leading to a vicious circle of damage begetting more damage. However, by giving an antioxidant supplement you reinforce the body's ability to cope.
When is Giving an Antioxidant Useful?
You may wish to give your dog an antioxidant supplement if they are:
Healthy, but have previously had a poor diet
Healthy, but live in a city or are exposed to pollutants or artificial chemicals
Suffer from a long-term inflammatory condition such as arthritis or skin allergies
Are over seven years of age
Remember, antioxidants are not a 'cure all', but an aid to improving the health of your much-loved best buddy. Also, know that most reputable dog foods are already supplemented with antioxidants, so take this into account when weighing up what to do. Your veterinarian is the best source of information.