Cells produce free radicals as a damaging byproduct of normal cell activity. Too many free radicals may be a cause of inflammation, aging and other degenerative conditions. Antioxidants can help reduce widespread cellular damage by stabilizing these free radicals.
The benefits of antioxidants are reported to be many. In young animals, antioxidants can help increase immune function, while in senior pets they can reduce the effects of aging. For animals suffering from cancer or other immune-compromising diseases, antioxidants can be particularly valuable and a critical part of their diet.
Synthetic antioxidants, such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), as well as ethoxyquin (E324), are beneficial since they stay active in the body longer than many naturally occurring antioxidants. However, consumers should understand the benefits of antioxidants naturally found in whole foods. These include vitamins A, C and E, as well as specialized compounds known as carotenoids (including lutein and beta carotene).
Foods to Fight Free Radicals
The pet industry has responded to the growing demand for pet foods containing antioxidant-rich ingredients.
“Many of the brightly colored pigments in fruits and vegetables are actually antioxidants (carotenoids), which help to slow the signs of aging by cleaning up the products of cellular oxidation,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen. “Antioxidants can help to protect against cancer, heart problems and other age-related diseases. Green vegetables such as kale, collard greens, spinach and green beans, as well as herbs like parsley and basil, are rich in chlorophyll and contain the antioxidant lutein. Red and orange vegetables and fruits are rich in carotene. Lycopene provides the red pigment in cranberries, cherries and pomegranate.”
“Kale is a super antioxidant that contains essential vitamins, including beta carotene, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C and lutein,” said Paula Savarese, president of Dogs Love Kale.
Evanger’s now adds farm-fresh spinach and kale to its Super Premium line, helping to raise the bar of quality nutrition for dogs.
“With high amounts of fiber, calcium, protein and Vitamins A, C and K, no other vegetable source can match these leafy-green wonders,” said Holly Sher, owner and president of Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company.
“Spinach and kale have many antioxidant properties that guard against inflammatory diseases, cancer and some cardiovascular problems.”
While foods high in antioxidants have become relatively common, antioxidant-rich treats are also becoming a big part of the industry.
Zuke’s recently announced the launch of Skinny Bakes, treats with a small calorie count that are ideal for training. Available in 2-, 5-, 10- and 20-calorie varieties, Skinny Bakes are the perfect size and calorie count for dogs of any breed. In addition to being low-calorie, they feature the energizing goodness of coconut and the antioxidant benefits of pomegranate, açai or goji berries, depending on the treat.
Antioxidants are also common in supplements, such as those available from System Saver, a safe, natural alternative to treating horses and pets instead of using harsh anti-inflammatory medications that often have undesirable side effects.
“I felt it was necessary to develop an all-natural alternative to the existing medications like steroids, NSAIDs and other medications that have many side effects on our pets,” said Dr. Don Baker of Dr. Baker’s Canine System Saver. “The supplement was originally created to use for horses, and many of our clients started to request it for their dogs after seeing how well their horses were doing on it, [so] we reformulated it for dogs also. We only use natural ingredients in our products and it has proven successful in managing many ailments in our dogs. We love hearing from our clients about the success they have with the product with the respect to their animals’ health soundness and improved quality of life—that is what it is all about.”
BONEO Canine Clinical Formula has a maximum strength dose (200 mg) of Neo-PORTIN Complex, a patented protein-based technology that promotes bone turnover, enhances the absorption of nutrients and helps stimulate the production of chondrocytes (cartilage-producing cells). It also contains a suite of antioxidants for comprehensive health support.
River City Pet Products offers Rehydrate Canine Joint Support and Rehydrate Canine Antioxidant. According to its website, Rehydrate Joint Support is formulated with vitamins, antioxidants and resveratrol (a grape skin extract with anti-aging properties).
Senior Care from K-10+ is a water-soluble dog supplement that is specially formulated to support balanced nutrition and well-being in senior dogs with a rich combination of antioxidants, taurine and digestive enzymes.
Not Just for Dogs
Cats have not been left out of the supplement market and numerous high-quality antioxidant supplements are available.
Nu-Pet Feline Antioxidant contains powerful, “live” whole-food phytonutrients that support a feline’s health with all known enzymes, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. The taurine, cysteine and glutathione help heart health, build muscle and may help reduce cellular oxidative damage.
Even rabbits benefit from supplements like Daily Best for Rabbits Crisps from Pet Naturals of Vermont. According to its website, this complete multivitamin/mineral formula contains digestive enzymes and antioxidants that benefit rabbits of all sizes and breeds. Antiox-100 is standardized to yield 95 percent proanthocyanidins (PCOs) per capsule. PCOs are a special class of water-soluble bioflavonoids that act as potent antioxidants.
All species can benefit from antioxidants and stores should encourage pet owners to explore the best solution for their pets.