Smoke, ozone, environmental pollution, pesticides—not exactly a walk in the park. Except that it is. Every day, you and your dog is exposed to countless toxins during your daily walk, your playtime, and even relaxing in your home.
But there is hope, and hope comes in the form of powerful antioxidants. Let’s look at the importance of antioxidants for dogs and how you can be sure to include them in their diet so that each day will be another… walk in the park.
What Are Antioxidants?
Though it’s commonly thought to be the name of a specific nutrient, “antioxidant” refers to any substance that inhibits oxidation.
But what is oxidation, and why is excessive amounts it harmful? For that, we must bring free radicals into the picture. Free radicals are potentially dangerous byproducts of metabolism; excessive amounts can damage cells.
It’s strange to consider anything with oxygen in the name to be potentially harmful. The thing is; it’s totally natural. You know how an apple or a banana turns brown a few moments after you cut it, or how an old photograph fades, or how a stop sign begins to rust? These are all examples of oxidation in daily life.
How Do Antioxidants Help?
Enter antioxidants. Antioxidants attack these destructive free radicals and safely remove them from the body. But if your furry friend doesn’t have a diet rich in antioxidants, the free radicals will have free reign, so to speak, and lead to health issues such as:
- Respiratory diseases
- Skin allergies
- Eye problems such as cataracts and blindness
- Immunodeficiencies and autoimmune disorders
- Arthritis and joint problems
- Heart disease
Why Does My Dog Need Them?
Although it is unsettling to think about, our dogs are exposed to far more toxins than we are, which makes an antioxidant supplement vital for proper health. How do our precious pets get exposed to an overload of environmental toxins? Here are just a few ways that you may not have even thought of:
- Lying in, rolling around in, playing in, and especially eating grass that may have been treated with lawn chemicals
- Licking every surface they can possibly find, indoors or out (think: household cleaners, remnants of deicer or commercial cleaners on the blacktop, environmental toxins on the sidewalk, flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides)
- Toxins that may have settled in their coat or on their paws after a day outside (remember that these will remain on your dog until you bathe them
- Closely breathing in flame-retardant chemicals while lying on the carpet or sofa day after day
For this reason, your dog needs resources to mitigate these daily toxins. Their defense, much like yours, will come in the form of antioxidants.
The antioxidant “problem” for your dog is this: their diet may not be varied enough to receive the antioxidants required for optimal health. Even if you’ve sourced the highest-quality dog food on the market, much of the added vitamins and antioxidants will be synthetic. And as with all things synthetic, your dog may not be able to absorb—let alone utilize—the added antioxidants.
What Are the Best Antioxidants for Dogs?
Now that we’ve given you the lowdown on antioxidants and why your dog needs them, let’s look at the best antioxidants for dogs in each particular phase of life. That way, you can get proactive whatever stage of life your dog is in!
Puppies, understandably so, come into this world needing all the nutritional help they can get. After all, their tiny bodies are still learning to adjust to germs, toxins, and a battery of vaccinations. Here are the specific powerful antioxidants they need for a good head start in life:
- Vitamin E – As a natural boost to the immune system and an aid to healthy blood vessels, vitamin E is necessary.
- Vitamin C – Great for joint pain, wound healing, energy, and inflammation of the gums. All perfect things for a pup.
- Beta Carotene – Beta Carotene optimizes the types of cells present in the blood, increases antibody levels in the blood, and optimizes vaccine recognition by dogs. Thus, for puppies, ensuring they get enough Beta Carotene is crucial.
- Selenium – This reduces the risk of cancer, protects against heart disease, helps cognitive function, supports thyroid health, reduces asthma symptoms. Great for a growing dog.
Adult dogs in their prime need a balance of antioxidants to reduce system-wide inflammation and restore their active muscles. The antioxidants they should be receiving on a daily basis are these:
- Vitamin E and C – Provides the same support to the immune system, joint health, energy, and inflammation in your dog’s adult years as it does in their puppy years.
- Polyphenols – As your dog progresses through life, they may start to develop different types of diseases from cancers to cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis to diabetes. Polyphenols help to prevent the development of these and keep your dog healthy.
And for your senior dogs, their immune system needs a special boost. The following antioxidants can help stave off, and in some cases, reverse age-related immunity issues:
- Vitamin E and C – As your dog ages, different organs and natural functions start to decline. Vitamin E keeps the immune system strong, while vitamin C continues to protect joints and provide energy.
- Beta Carotene – Because beta carotene helps to increase antibody levels present in the blood, as your dog reaches their senior years, including this in their diet is key.
- Polyphenols – Senior dogs have less protection against serious disorders. Providing polyphenols is a great way to prevent or slow down the development of cancer, diabetes, and other systemic diseases.
It should be noted that these are just the antioxidants that are considered a must for each stage of your dog’s life. By no means is this list representative of all the types they should be getting. Balance is key with antioxidants, as with all vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. All of these wonderful substances play off of each other synergistically and need to work together for your dog’s overall health!
How Can I Be Sure My Dog is Getting Enough Antioxidants?
Luckily, there are thousands of sources of natural antioxidants for dogs available, and most of them come from plants. The bad news is that dogs are often intolerant to fruits and veggies.
Try adding a few of these dog-friendly, antioxidant-rich foods to their diet slowly to see how well your dog tolerates them:
- Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries
- Cooked yellow squash, carrots, sweet potatoes
- Steamed broccoli, spinach, kale, green beans
- Tomatoes and mangos (in moderation as these may cause diarrhea)
Daily Supplement for Antioxidants and More
If your dog’s digestion is not able to handle the roughage of fruits and vegetables—and even if they are—your dog’s health will greatly benefit by receiving antioxidants in the form of a daily supplement. A high-grade, trusted supplement will give your dog all of the natural antioxidants they need and more!
When choosing a supplement, look for the following in the ingredient list:
- Antioxidants – Look for ingredients like lactoferrin, resveratrol, superoxide dismutase, and cysteine, as well as other essential vitamins like A, C, and E, to ensure your pup has the full-range of antioxidants.
- Omega fatty acids – Often stemming from ingredients like flaxseed, omega fatty acids can help in all stages of development. When mixed with tryptophan, these help puppies regulate mood and sleep cycles.
- B-Vitamins – A combination of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7 and B12 are necessary for proper development at the cellular level. The B-complex assists with healthy skin, brain functionality, skeletal structure, and they act as antioxidants.
- Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) – ALA helps improve cognition and brain functionality in dogs of all stages.
- Chondroitin – Especially for senior dogs, chondroitin (commonly found in chicken) helps to aid in joint mobility by lubricating and supporting the bone structure.
What to Look For in a Supplement
If you’ve ever gone supplement shopping for yourself, you know how frustrating it can be to find one that ticks all the boxes and simultaneously doesn’t make you feel sick in some way. Unfortunately, our pets can’t tell us or even show us when they feel out of sorts. This is why you need to be extra vigilant.
Here are some final considerations when choosing antioxidants for dogs supplements.
- Find a supplemental blend for your dog’s particular stage of life and not just a one-size-fits-all pill.
- Look for bioactive and bioavailable nutrients that will be absorbed into your dog’s system and not end up on your lawn.
Choose a supplement with a balance of natural ingredients; a blend of vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, and antioxidants; and a focus on bioavailability and gut health for maximum absorption.
For a supplement that has all these features, consider Vetericyn’s ALL-IN supplements.
Build Up Your Dog’s Defenses
To keep your dog happy and healthy, they need to be consuming plenty of healthy vitamins, minerals, and—of course—powerful antioxidants. No, your dog will never stop licking the sidewalk. And no, they won’t stop licking the weird corners of your kitchen floor… There’s nothing to stop curiosity of that nature.
Instead, make sure their defenses are equal to the germ-filled task with an antioxidant-rich diet. And when in doubt, a supplement won’t hurt.
Reviewed by Dan Richardson, Veterinarian
Dan Richardson has been a practicing veterinarian for over 10 years. He specializes in surgery and orthopedics. Dan is originally from rural western Nevada and attended the University of Idaho for undergraduate study and Oregon State University for Veterinary School. The Richardson Family enjoys camping and spending time on the water fishing, paddle boarding, or digging their feet in the sand somewhere warm.
- Pet MD. Importance of Antioxidants in Pet Food. https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_multi_importance_of_antioxidants_in_pet_food
- U.S. News and World Report. Nutrient Synergy: Harnessing the Power of Dynamic Duos and Trios. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-03-09/nutrient-synergy-harnessing-the-power-of-dynamic-duos-and-trios