Antioxidants are health-balancing molecules that help regulate the normal oxidation process in your dog's body. This process produces compounds known as 'free radicals that are missing an electron.
Free radicals are great for helping your dog fight off infections and detoxify to reduce the risk of developing various diseases. However, when there are too many of them, they can disrupt normal cellular and DNA processes that are vital to your dog's health. This is because free radicals 'steal' the missing electron they need from your dog's cells - including their DNA.
That's where antioxidants come in to help positively balance the oxidation process that produces free radicals.
How Do Antioxidants Help Dogs?
Antioxidants are produced naturally in your dog's body, and they work by providing free radicals with the electron that they need so that they don't have to take it from your dog's cells.
However, particularly with older dogs, antioxidants can become depleted in the body. When this happens, an imbalance occurs between free radicals and antioxidants, which is known as oxidative stress. This unhealthy physical state can increase the risk for all kinds of debilitating health issues in dogs, including:
- DNA mutations
- Cardiovascular issues
- Certain types of cancer, including canine lymphoma
- Kidney disease
- Nerve degeneration
- Infections and parasite invasions, including mange (skin mites)
That's why veterinarians often recommend supplementing senior dogs' diets with antioxidants in order to help ward off oxidative stress and its negative health effects.
What are the Benefits of Antioxidants for Aging Dogs?
As your dog moves into their senior years, they'll likely experience increased inflammation, elevated oxidative stress, and a diminishing immune system as part of the normal aging process.
Antioxidants are especially important during this time of their life to help counter the negative effects of these declining processes. The benefits of antioxidants for aging dogs include:
- Healthy skin and a beautiful coat
- A strong immune system to ward off infections and pathogens
- A decreased risk of developing common canine diseases
- Added hip and joint support for increased mobility
- Better cognitive functioning
- Reduced stress and better mental health
- Better eye health
- Digestive and respiratory system support
- Healthy teeth and gums
Do Antioxidants Help with Arthritis in Dogs?
In addition to the benefits listed above, antioxidants can have a huge impact on alleviating the symptoms of arthritis in dogs. Inflammation of the joints can cause painful pressure on nerves, and antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties to help alleviate pain and increase your canine companion's mobility.
A 2016 study, for example, included 77 dogs previously diagnosed with osteoarthritis. They were enrolled by their owners in the research group and given the antioxidant Omega-3 as part of the dog's diet for 16 weeks. Compared to the control group given corn oil, these dogs showed greater improvements in markers for inflammation-inducing oxidative stress.
What Antioxidants are the Best for a Senior Dog?
Take a look at our list of the 10 best antioxidants and dog supplements for older dogs.
What antioxidant-rich vitamins should I be giving my senior dog?
- Vitamin E – Found in high concentration in your dog's immune cells, Vitamin E is very important for elevating immune health, repairing muscles, and ensuring proper circulation. It can help protect your dog from vision loss and diseases like cancer and heart disease, plus helps ensure their cells are formed properly as they age. Because it's so important to overall health, Vitamin E is one of the most beneficial antioxidants for your aging dog.
- Vitamin C – A powerful anti-inflammatory agent, Vitamin C can become depleted in your dog's body when they're ill or stressed out. This potent antioxidant aids in preventing cartilage and tissue breakdown. It also helps guard against cancer, toxin overload, and bacterial and viral infections by elevating white blood cell responses and raising interferon and antibody levels in your dog's bloodstream. In fact, this vitamin is why many pet food brands include blueberries in their ingredient list. Vitamin C is critical for cognitive function in adult dogs, and it protects cell membranes.
What other antioxidant-rich nutrients should I be giving my senior dog?
- Glutathione – Sometimes referred to as "the master antioxidant", this compound contains three amino acids and has the unique ability to recharge itself after donating an electron to a free radical. It works at the cellular level to boost immunity, detoxify the liver, and slow your dog's aging process.
- Zinc – This trace element works to regulate thymus activity in your dog to help ward off disease, and it also promotes skin, reproductive, and eye health, provides neuroprotection, reduces behavioral issues, regulates immunity, and helps keep pathogens at bay.
- Polyphenols – These powerhouse compounds that give plants their unique aroma, color, and flavor also have strong protective properties for plants, people, and pets alike. They include flavonoids, phenolic acid, and polyphenolic amides. The curcumin found in turmeric is also a polyphenol. They help protect against some of the leading diseases affecting dogs, including certain forms of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, respiratory(lung) issues, and diabetes.
- Glucosamine – Found naturally in dog joints, this amino acid chemical has antioxidant properties that help fight inflammation, promote cartilage collagen synthesis, and reduce the risk, progression, and symptoms of osteoarthritis. It's one of the best antioxidants for joint and hip support in aging canines.
- Chondroitin – Like glucosamine, chondroitin is produced naturally in dog joints and works together with it to ward off painful inflammation and arthritis symptoms. It is an anti-inflammatory that helps stop certain enzymes from attacking joints and cartilage.
- Beta Carotene – Important for eye health, this compound is often associated with the bright orange color it adds to carrots. It can boost your senior dogs' immunity by elevating the number of antibodies in their blood. In combination with Vitamin A, it can improve your dog's coat and skin and even help fight off cancer.
- L-carnitine – An amino acid that's involved in cell energy production, L-carnitine also works with another amino acid called taurine to keep your dog's heart healthy.
- Selenium - Another trace element, selenium helps regulate your dog's metabolism, especially thyroid metabolism. It also plays a key role in DNA synthesis. When combined with Vitamin E it has been shown to positively impact dogs' immune response to certain types of vaccines.
Which Combination of Antioxidants is the Most Desirable for Aging Pets?
When it comes to antioxidants, a good rule of them is "the more, the merrier". This is because, when antioxidants donate an electron to free radicals, the former become pro-oxidants that can have negative effects on your dog's body. Other antioxidants are then needed to help repair them.
Feeding your dog a diverse range of antioxidant types in combination, such as vitamins with trace minerals and polyphenols, is a good idea. It helps preserve joint health, prevent joint pain, and increases joint mobility. For example, Selenium tends to work well to boost Vitamin E effects, and likewise, flavonoids (a type of polyphenol) have been shown to work well with Vitamin C.
Also, probiotics have antioxidant properties, and they can also enhance the absorption of antioxidants found in other foods and supplements. That's why our Probiotic Nutrient Enhancer is especially helpful in increasing absorption rates of the antioxidants found in our Early Stage Hip + Joint Complex and Advanced Hip + Joint Complex with MSM blends.
Our Total Oral Care Spray with Aloe Vera also contains multiple natural ingredients such as honey, cloves, peppermint, and cinnamon to provide multiple antioxidants that have a positive impact on your dog's teeth and gum health.
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How Often Should I Give My Aging Dog Antioxidants?
According to Veterinarians.org, antioxidants are a natural part of dog biology and are considered safe and effective. They typically have few side effects and therefore can be taken daily. Just make sure to look for supplements that contain natural ingredients, as many of the antioxidants found in dog food are synthetic.
High-quality supplements will also include dosing information on the labeling that's based on your dog's weight. You can check with your veterinarian to help determine the best dosing for your senior dog's wellness needs.
What is the Best Way to Give My Dog Antioxidants?
There are several good options for dog owners who want to boost their dog's antioxidant intake.
Chewables, Tablets, and Capsules:
Chewables, tablets, and capsules offer convenient, pre-measured doses that you can easily carry with you when you and your dog are on the go.
Antioxidant-rich skincare products like sprays and shampoos can help for more localized issues, such as skin allergies, irritation, mites, fleas, and ticks.
Many pet owners prefer powdered supplements because they're easy to mix in with dogs' regular food, so you can be sure they get all the nutrition they need.
What is the Difference Between Antioxidants and Supplements?
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, herbs, compounds, certain probiotic strains, or other nutrients found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods that protect against oxidative stress.
Supplements are dietary enhancement products made from these foods, or from extracts taken from these foods. They can be in powder, chewable, capsule, spray, or other topical forms, like shampoos and soaps. They typically contain a high concentration of antioxidants to help replenish and rebalance your senior dog's mind-body health.
What are Some of the Best Antioxidant Supplements for My Aging Pet?
In 'Beware! 3 Rules in Buying Supplements', we outlined the importance of watching out for supplement potency and ensuring the product contains no fillers or contaminants. The best antioxidant supplements for senior dogs also have ingredients that work in unison to boost each other's health-enhancing benefits in order to maximize their positive effects on the aging process.
Since senior dogs are more susceptible to allergies and food sensitivities, it's best to look for natural, wheat-free products formulated by veterinarians who understand canine body chemistry. This also helps ensure that the antioxidant supplement you choose is created using ingredients that are safe and effective to take with other medications and treatments.
Our antioxidant-rich VetSmart Formulas are wheat, filler, and contaminant-free to help balance and stabilize your senior dog's digestive, oral, immune, gastrointestinal, skin, heart, hip, joint, and cellular health - and help make sure their "golden" years with you some of their best!