If dogs have a fault, it's that they don't live long enough.
Which means that every pet parent should spare a thought for antioxidants. Why? Because antioxidants are Mother Nature's tool for repairing damaged cells and minimizing the aging process.
What Exactly is an Antioxidant?
Long story short, an antioxidant is something that protects cells from damage by free radicals. Examples of antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, selenium, coenzyme Q10, and certain nutraceuticals.
3 Ways Antioxidants Can Benefit Your Dog
Let's take a closer look at how they can help your dog and why a supplementary source can be beneficial.
#1: Top-up Low Body Reserves
Molecules called 'free radicals' damage cells. Think of them as nails on the highway, waiting to puncture car tires. Mother Nature equipped the body with its own 'tire repair' system - you guessed it - antioxidants. The latter are to be found in various foods, so a healthy diet should ensure good levels of antioxidants.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants include:
Green vegetables (the darker the better) such as broccoli, green beans, peas, and dark leafy veg
Orange vegetables such as carrots and yams
Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
However, some foods are richer in antioxidants than others, so a poor diet can leave a dog vulnerable and in need of a supplement.
#2: 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. In other words, instead of emptying a bag of nails on the road, someone came along with a whole dump truck's worth.
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.
#3: 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 allergies, arthritis, and cancer go hand-in-hand with inflammation.
The inflammatory process generates 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. This is one reason why joint supplements (containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and various vitamins) are so popular.
When is Giving an Antioxidant Useful?
And finally, in practical terms 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.
Remember, antioxidants are not a 'cure all', but an aid to improving the health of your much-loved best buddy. You won't see quick results, so be prepared to give the supplement daily for months or even years. Also, know that most reputable dog foods are already supplemented with antioxidants, so take this into account when weighing up what to do.