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Does Your Dog Need Antioxidants?

Antioxidant Berries

We are all exposed to oxidative stressors in our environmental on a daily basis. This is especially true for our beloved dogs because they spend so much time in the presence of their owners compared to other pets. Oxidative stressors include daily sunlight, pollutants in the air like cigarette smoke, and eating less than optimal snacks and foods. These oxidative stressors create free radicals that set off reactions damaging DNA, cell membranes and can cause cell death, leading to accelerated aging and chronic disease states. Even essential physiological activities like breathing, digestion of foods, and normal aging create an ongoing supply of free radicals! In youth, cells’ innate antioxidant pathways fight off oxidative stress and sop up free radicals to protect us from their damaging effects. However, aging and diseases such as diabetes mellitus, obesity, cancer, and cataracts use up antioxidant stores and, eventually, there is a significantly diminished level of these protective molecules. Many dog foods are depleted of antioxidants due to being processed at high temperatures, to sitting on the shelf for too long, or from being exposed to heat after production. When dogs used to hunt for their food, they often ate small prey that were vegetarians or that ingested plant based antioxidants. In this way, they were able to ingest antioxidants in a passive manner without seeking out these types of foods. We often think of dogs as carnivores, but they are actually omnivores, though they have a carnivorous bias based on their dental characteristics and their digestive tracts which are optimized for eating meats. For all of these reasons, many experts believe that dogs should eat whole meat based ingredients in their diets with appropriate vegetables and fruits added in, rather than grains, rice and corn as the predominant ingredients. Many pet parents are not feeding their dogs a biologically ideal diet. Sadly, shelter and street dogs have likely been eating suboptimally for long periods of time with exposure to harsh conditions before finding loving homes. Both of these populations may be young in age but old in antioxidant and nutrient status. In addition, typical aging also diminishes the absorption of nutrients. For all of these reasons, your dog’s diet should be supplemented with a variety of plant-based antioxidants. This will replenish diminished or lost antioxidant stores, optimizing their cells’ environments, possibly improving healing and slowing aging. In addition, some dogs, like some people, age faster or are predisposed or have the bad luck of developing chronic diseases like cancer, endocrine diseases, and diabetes. Certain breeds of dogs are genetically predisposed to diseases including cataracts, retinal degeneration, heart disease, and others. For example, diabetes-induced cataracts develop in almost all diabetic dogs by a year after diagnosis or soon thereafter. A variety of antioxidants that includes lutein, green tea extract, alpha lipoic acid, grapeseed extract and lycopene, as well as others, can help to significantly diminish the risk of developing these blinding cataracts. Inherited retinal degeneration is another example where an antioxidant blend including lutein, omega fatty acids, grapeseed extract and coenzyme Q10, as well as others, has substantially slowed the progression of this disease such that these dogs are sighted long term, rather than going blind by a few months to a year. For all of these reasons, complementing dogs’ diets with plant-based antioxidants like Ocu-GLO Rx may help to positively support their overall health and disease states! Carol CorlitzThis article was written by guest contributor, Dr. Carmen Colitz, DVM, DACO & PhD in Comparative and Experimental Medicine with an expertise is orthomolecular nutrition. She has over 20 years of veterinary experience and is a consulting veterinarian for Animal Necessity.