The Benefits of Antioxidants for Dogs and Cats

Antioxidant supplements can be beneficial for pets that suffer from allergies, skin problems, immune disorders, respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, eye disorders, or general problems associated with aging because antioxidants reduce the cellular damage done by free radicals and help return your dog or cat to a state of good health.

Antioxidant supplementation is especially important for animals that are being treated for cancer or have other diseases that compromise their immune systems.

Essential Vitamins and Antioxidants for Dogs and Cats

Vitamin A is manufactured by humans and animals from pigment substances called carotenes, which are commonly found in plants. Vitamin A is fat-soluble.

Vitamin A is essential for:
  • Supporting healthy eyesight
  • Maintaining healthy skin and mucous membrane
  • Growth and proper digestion
  • The production of red and white corpuscles in the blood
  • Lactation
  • Growth and repair of body tissues
  • Protecting the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, throat and lungs, thereby reducing susceptibility to infections
  • Protecting against environmental pollutants
  • Aiding in bone and teeth formation

A deficiency of vitamin A may result in night blindness; increased susceptibility to infections; rough, dry, scaly skin; loss of smell and appetite; fatigue; lack of eye-tearing; and defective teeth and retarded gum growth.

Vitamin A is especially beneficial to aging animals, and those suffering from respiratory problems (asthma, bronchitis), and atopic dermatitis.

Mixed Carotenoids contains antioxidants found in carotenoid-rich foods. Carotenoids are the red, orange and yellow plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vivid colors. All fruits and vegetables contain varying concentrations of carotenoids, but their colors are often covered up by green chlorophyll contained in the plant. There are more than 600 different naturally occurring carotenoids. Some of them have been identified as playing a vital role by protecting cells and tissues from the damaging effects of free radicals and singlet oxygen. Carotenoids have also been shown to enhance immune system function, and inhibit the development of certain types of cancers.
  • Lycopene, the carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color, is particularly effective at quenching the destructive free radical singlet oxygen.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin, found in corn and leafy greens such as kale and spinach, provide antioxidant protection in the macular region of the eye.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin have been found to reduce the incidence of cataracts.
  • Spirulina is one of the richest beta-carotene foods and helps support the immune system and your pet's skin and coat.
  • Carrot Powder contains important plan-pigment antioxidant carotenoids that benefit the eyes and skin.

A deficiency of carotenoids may result in vision problems, especially cataracts.

Mixed carotenoids are especially beneficial to animals with cancer, cataracts and other eye disorders, respiratory problems and allergies.

Vitamin C is the body's primary water-soluble antioxidant, which makes it an important weapon in the immune system's arsenal against bacteria and viruses. It also helps protect unsaturated fatty acids, and the fat-soluble vitamins A and E from being oxidized, therefore protecting their potency. Since your pet can't manufacture it, vitamin C must be obtained through diet and supplementation.

A protective vitamin essential to over-all body health, vitamin C is especially important for neutralizing free radicals.  It also:

  • Helps in the production of collagen, and maintaining healthy skin
  • Promotes the healing of wounds, scar tissue, fractures
  • Strengthens  blood vessels
  • Helps the body utilize iron and folic acid
  • Supports the thymus gland
  • Enhances T-cell production, increasing resistance to viral and bacterial infections, and some allergies

A deficiency of vitamin C may result in bleeding gums, swollen or painful joints, slow healing of wounds and fractures, the tendency to bruise or bleed in any part of the body, and scurvy. Vitamin C is especially beneficial to animals with any type of chronic disease, infection, allergy or dermatitis.

Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) is a major antioxidant nutrient that occurs in both plant and animal tissue. It is fat-soluble and:
  • Acts in the body to protect red blood cells, vitamin A and unsaturated fatty acids from oxidation damage
  • Helps maintain healthy membrane tissue
  • Retards cellular aging due to oxidation
  • Supplies oxygen to the blood, which is then carried to the heart and other organs, thus alleviating fatigue
  • Brings nourishment to cells
  • Strengthens the capillary walls

A deficiency of vitamin E may lead to a rupture of red blood cells, loss of reproductive powers, abnormal fat deposits in muscles, degenerative changes in the changes in the heart and other muscles; and dry skin. It is especially beneficial to aging animals, and animals with heart disease, cancer and atopic dermatitis.

Curcumin (turmeric) is a potent antioxidant that helps maintain the body's normal inflammatory response and has particular benefits to joint health, liver support, gastrointestinal health and cardiovascular function.

Selenium is a mineral and a major antioxidant nutrient. Selenium:
  • Protects cell membranes and helps prevent free radical generation
  • Preserves tissue elasticity
  • Slows down the aging and hardening of tissues due to oxidation
  • Helps in the treatment and prevention of dry, flaky skin

A deficiency of selenium may result in premature aging, heart disease, dry, flaky skin and sagging skin.    

Selenium is especially beneficial to animals being treated with corticosteroids, which are known to deplete selenium. Selenium is also beneficial to animals suffering from cancer (and as a cancer preventative) and to those diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Caution: Selenium can be toxic in overdose. Only give supplements containing selenium that are labeled for cats and/or dogs.
Milk Thistle Extract, from the bright pink-flowered thistle that grows wild along roadsides, is the favorite herbal liver protector. Valued for its medicinal and nutritional properties for more than 2000 years, milk thistle has been commonly used to treat liver diseases since the Middle Ages. Today, more than 150 clinical studies have shown that milk thistle has a beneficial effect on the liver in humans and in animals.

Milk thistle extract blocks the entrance of harmful toxins and helps to remove these toxins from liver cells. Milk thistle's active ingredient, silymarin, works as a powerful antioxidant, and has also been shown to regenerate injured liver cells by inducing new DNA and RNA synthesis.  Milk thistle:

  • Promotes the flow of bile, which helps emulsify fats
  • Protects the outer membrane of liver cells
  • Provides antioxidant protection to limit free radical damage
  • Regenerates damaged liver cells

Milk thistle extract is especially beneficial to animals with liver disease or damage, and to all animals as a protectant against environmental chemicals and pollutants.

Grape Seed Extract promotes cellular health and improves blood circulation by strengthening capillaries, arteries and veins. Aging animals and those with cataracts, cancer and heart disease may benefit from grape seed extract.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is often called the "universal antioxidant" because it works in both water and fatty tissues, thus providing protection to all your pet's cells and organ systems, including the brain.  Alpha lipoic acid enhances the antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E and is especially beneficial to aging dogs.

Quercetin, Rutin and Hesperidin are bioflavonoids with strong antioxidant properties and help to promote healthy circulation, maintain collagen and block the release of histamines to help pets with allergies.

Astaxanthin is a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect cells, organs and tissues from oxidative damage.  Astaxanthin:
  • Supports the immune system
  • Supports joint and muscle recovery after exercise
  • Promotes neurological and eye health in dogs and cats
  • Supports cardiovascular health 
  • Helps to prevent light induced damage to the eyes and may benefit pets with age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Why Does my Pet Need an Antioxidant Supplement?

Unlike people who hopefully eat a diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, most dogs and cats eat commercial pet food containing a minimal amount of antioxidants. Whether your dog or cat is healthy or fighting a disease, an antioxidant supplement can provide immune support, protect it from environmental toxins, and may even help prolong its life.

See Antioxidant Supplements for Dogs and Cats