Oxidation, Free Radicals and Antioxidants
Oxidation is a chemical process that takes place inside the cells of every living being. It occurs when the body goes through such normal processes as metabolism and detoxification.
Free radicals are the by-products of the process of oxidation inside the body. In addition, environmental toxins such as exhaust gas, harmful chemicals, etc. can also produce free radicals.
Free radicals are in essence unpaired electrons in constant search for a mate. They react with other molecules and rob them of an electron. As such, free radicals are toxic to body cells and tissues since they can cause damage in numerous ways.
As a result of the damage, numerous diseases can occur, including infections, cancer, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, premature aging, and more.
Some examples of free radicals include nitric oxide, lipid peroxide, and hydrogen peroxide.
Antioxidants are the vitamins, minerals, enzymes or other chemical compounds that work to remove free radicals.
They work by neutralizing the oxidants, preventing or limiting cell damage. The body can naturally and regularly produce some such vitamins and minerals that act as antioxidants. Others are to be obtained from foods or supplements.
Different Sources of Antioxidants
Dogs can obtain antioxidants from different sources. For example:
- Certain foods: Some antioxidant-rich foods include vegetables and fresh fruits (e.g. broccoli, peas, green beans, carrots, dark red grapes, red grapefruit), and whole grains.
- Vitamins: Vitamins that are powerful antioxidants are vitamins A, C, and E.
- Minerals: Selenium, manganese, and zinc are minerals that have antioxidant properties.
- Herbs: Milk thistle, green tea, turmeric, and mushrooms are herbs with powerful antioxidant effects.
- Other Supplements: Other antioxidant nutritional supplements include superoxide dismutase, glutathione, coenzyme Q-10, grapefruit seed extract, and various antioxidant flavonoids called proanthocyanidins.
Do All Dogs Need Antioxidants?
All dogs can benefit from supplementation with antioxidants.
But why do dogs need supplementation? You may think that since you are already feeding your dog a health diet, you can skip supplementation of antioxidants.
For one thing, most dogs do not eat enough vegetables and fruits to obtain sufficient amount of antioxidants from their diet.
In addition, like people, nowadays dogs are always being exposed to environmental toxins and harmful chemicals. For example, gas exhaust, pesticides, cigarette smoke… The list goes on. The free radicals produced by these environmental toxins can get access into our dog’s body and cause oxidation.
In particular, older dogs or dogs with health conditions can benefit from antioxidant supplements. The extra antioxidants can help to eliminate the large amounts of free radicals produced as a result of excess cellular oxidation in these dogs.
Besides supporting and enhancing the immune system, antioxidants are beneficial for numerous health issues in dogs, including:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Teeth and gum disease
- Eye problems such as Cataracts
- Autoimmune diseases
Some Precautions When Using Antioxidants on Dogs
For best results, give “antioxidant combos” (instead of a single antioxidant supplement) to your dog for synergistic effects.
It is particularly true for vitamins and minerals (e.g. Coenzyme Q-10 is best absorbed with vitamin E so be sure to give these two together).
Additionally, be careful not to overdose. For example, vitamin A, being fat soluble and cannot be excreted in the urine, can be toxic at high levels.
As with all supplements, it is best to use antioxidant supplements that are made specifically for pets. Without approval from your vet, do not give your dog any antioxidant supplements made for humans.
Finally, before starting your dog on any antioxidant supplement, it is best to consult with your vet especially if your dog is already on some form of medications and/or supplements.