Antioxidants serve an important role in pet health. They help slow the aging process, improve immunity, fight illness and even help preserve our pets’ food. We’re seeing the phrase “natural antioxidants” pop up more frequently as it relates to our pets’ food and health.
Antioxidants can be natural or synthetic and not long ago, manufacturers focused on synthetic preservatives to keep food fresh. However, consumers are shying away from anything synthetic and opting for the oxidant power of fresh foods, also known as superfoods.
Oxidation occurs when foods are exposed to oxygen. This process breaks down nutrients and fats, resulting in discoloration as well as rancidity. Antioxidants can slow down this process and help stabilize the shelf life of our foods.
“The pet industry is trending toward quality ingredients, which includes things like whole foods, pure ingredients, organic and human grade foods,” said Emily J. Hall, Marketing Manager of Nummy Tum Tum. “Pet owners want the very best for their pets and it all starts with the right diet. What’s trending right now in the food world has slowly made its way to the pet market as well.”
Antioxidants are measured according to their ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value. This unit of measurement was developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Each raw food is assigned an ORAC score, which helps to evaluate the “superfoods” so often referred to in the pet food industry.
“Kale is a super antioxidant that contains essential vitamins, including beta carotene, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C and lutein,” said Paula Savarese, President and Co-Founder of Twiggy’s Cupcakes and Dogs Love Kale. “Kale and Flaxseed aids in making your dog’s coat softer and shinier, with healthier skin underneath. Flaxseed also provides fiber to your dog’s diet. Dogs and pet owners everywhere love our treats because they provide our pets with the health and nutrition they deserve.”
Turmeric is a new favorite for pets and people. The spice is naturally high in curcumins, which are very effective in scavenging free radicals and neutralize them. There are many manufacturers and consumers who extol the virtues of turmeric.
The Honest Kitchen offers an instant “Bone Broth” treat for dogs and cats that combines turmeric (95-percent curcuminoids) with dehydrated beef broth, pumpkin, parsley and turmeric.
“The active compound in turmeric that’s been studied extensively for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen.
Ewegurt, a relatively new supplement, uses sheep’s milk to provide a nutrient rich powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols. Sprinkling it on pets’ food can help your pet reap the benefits of this natural calmant.
“I created this product out of a need to help my Golden who suffers from anxiety that caused him to have seizures because his cortisol levels spike during stressful situations,” said Jennifer Erdman, Founder/Managing Partner of Ewegurt, LLC.
Pet Releaf recently launched Gluten-Free Edibites CBD Treats for Dogs, which are specifically designed to be used as daily nutritional supplements, as they are extremely high in antioxidants, omegas and essential fatty acids. All Pet Releaf products contain a guaranteed amount of whole hemp plant CBD, which is the only compound in the natural world that activates the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
“Pet Releaf’s products have quickly received a wonderful reception from customers and retailers alike,” said Pet Releaf Founder and CEO Alina Smith.
Antioxidants can be used in non-food items as well.
“There are so many unseen environmental toxins that our pets are exposed to through inhalation (indoor air quality and materials off gassing), absorption (pesticides and materials toxins through paws and skin), and ingestion (food quality and licking off coat),” said Stephanie Boone, founder and CEO of Wondercide. “Antioxidants with high orac values, like neem bark and neem leaf, are essential to cleansing your pet’s liver and kidney for a longer, healthier life.”
Antioxidants can be found in natural tear staining remedies as well. All Angels’ Eyes Tear Stain remedies are specifically developed to help eliminate tear stains by offering natural support to dogs and cats from the inside out.
“The active ingredients in our products are a proprietary blend composed of natural antioxidants and helps support the normal inflammatory response,” said Lynda Winkowski, founder of Angels Eyes. “Angels’ Eyes never adds any corn, wheat, soy or artificial food colorings, which can add to tear staining.”
Plenty of changes are coming down the line as studies and new advances are released. Recently, two Clemson professors won a national award for an innovative natural product they have created that can extend the shelf life of pet food. Vladimir Reukov and Alexey Vertegel, professors in the bioengineering department and researchers for Clemson’s Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC), won the 2016 Bisplinghoff Innovation Award by the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation for their creation of Prot-X, a natural antioxidant created from red blood cells found in animal blood.
“This product is a very effective natural antioxidant that is as efficient as synthetic antioxidants and less costly to produce than other natural antioxidants,” Vertegel said. “When added to pet food, it allows the food to maintain its freshness and quality and prevents fat rancidity.”
“Red blood cells are natural oxygen carriers so they are well protected from oxidation,” he added. “So, because red blood cells have all the biomolecules they need to protect themselves from oxidation, our idea to use (blood) as antioxidant was pretty logical.”