When we select and buy the food that we want to feed to our dogs, there is a lot of choice on the market and in order to attract the attention of buyers and draw attention to the benefits of their food, dog food manufacturers often highlight certain elements of their food on the packaging.
This includes broad statements such as “natural ingredients” or “designed by vets,” as well as more specific claims about the ingredients themselves, such as “contains probiotics” or “contains antioxidants.” The way that these things are mentioned is designed to get over to dog owners that these are all good things to have in the dog’s food – but not all dog owners really understand why, or how things like antioxidants are beneficial to dogs.
In this article, we will look at what antioxidants are and why choosing a dog food that contains them is beneficial to your dog’s health, and how antioxidants serve your dog when contained within a complete balanced diet. Read on to learn more.
In its simplest terms, an antioxidant is a substance that inhibits oxidation, or that helps to remove oxidising agents from the dog’s body. Antioxidants are not an ingredient in and of themselves, but rather a component or element of certain other ingredients, such as vitamins C and E.
Antioxidants perform a really important role for your dog – they help to counteract the effects of free radicals in your dog’s body. So, what are free radicals, and why are they bad?
Well, free radicals are produced as a side effect of your dog’s metabolic process, and they act on your dog’s protein levels, the membranes and cells of your dog’s body, and even their DNA by means of oxidation, taking electrons from within molecules in the body, which in turn, can convert the affected molecules themselves into free radicals, perpetuating the cycle.
Free radicals are reactive with other molecules in your dog’s body but don’t contain electrons like healthy molecules do, instead taking electrons from other cells and molecules, rendering them ineffective or causing damage to your dog’s body on a cellular level.
In healthy young adult dogs this won’t have an obvious negative impact while your dog is in their prime, but for dogs that are malnourished, ill, or getting on in years and so, less robust in general, free radicals go into overdrive, causing cell death that can over the long term have a negative impact on your dog’s health and mental acuity.
This is where antioxidants come into their own. Antioxidants can inhibit or even stop the spread of free radicals and cell damage by inhibiting the oxidation that causes damage and transferring their own electrons to the free radicals, stopping them from continuing to cause cellular damage and keeping them from producing ever-more free radicals.
This helps to protect your dog’s cells from damage and decay, and slow down the body’s aging process – which means that when your dog gets older, they will suffer from age-related degeneration of both the body and mind at a much slower rate, helping to keep them healthy well into old age.
This reduces the chances of your dog beginning to suffer from age-related health problems of all varieties, and vitally, helps to keep your dog’s mind healthy so that as they age, their brain degeneration will progress more slowly. This can help to delay the onset of age-related brain changes like forgetfulness, dementia and inappropriate behaviours. Essentially keeping their minds younger for longer.
Antioxidants also help to keep your dog’s immune system fighting fit, reducing the chances of them picking up minor ills and more serious problems, because a healthy immune system fights off such threats before they have the chance to take hold.
You don’t need to buy supplements or feed your dog additives within their diet in order to ensure that they get the antioxidants they need to stay healthy – you just need to feed them a complete diet that contains antioxidants, which will be indicated in the nutritional analysis of the food as well as potentially on the product label or list of benefits.
This is particularly important if you are choosing a food for an older dog that is appropriate for their life stage, to help to slow down the natural age-related decline associated with brain aging.
However, it is wise to feed your dog a food with antioxidants regardless of their age, as the sooner they start getting the benefits that antioxidants bring, the greater the positive effects it will have. Age-related changes in dogs can be slowed down or offset, but they cannot be reversed entirely – aging problems in humans and dogs such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and physical problems like arthritis and kidney disorders cannot be reversed or cured by means of dietary changes, as not all cells can be renewed or replaced once they have died off.
Choosing a food with antioxidants and that is designed to match your dog’s life stage will help to protect them in old age, and give their immune system a boost – all of which will help to maintain your dog’s quality of life, general wellbeing, and potentially, even increase their lifespan.