According to a paper published in the Advance Journal of Food Science and Technology, an “Antioxidant is a chemical that delays the start or slows the rate of lipid oxidation reaction.” Oxidation is a natural process in which unstable molecules are produced that then may cause damage to stable molecules. Examples of oxidation in the environment are when apples brown, metal rusts, or pennies turn green.
Oxidation also occurs in all living organisms, including dogs. The effect of oxidation and subsequent production of unstable molecules in organisms are damaged cells, DNA, and cell membranes. Because oxidation occurs in all animals, they all need antioxidants to not only survive but thrive.
“Antioxidants are a wide range of chemicals, both synthetic and natural in origin, that minimize” damage caused by the unstable molecules produced by oxidative processes. Two antioxidants commonly supplied in pet foods are vitamin E and C.
Vitamin E as an Antioxidant:
In a report by Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, vitamin E is described as a fat soluble vitamin exclusively derived from dietary sources. Vitamin E is found primarily in cell membranes and plays a major role in protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage. Vitamin E deficiency in animals has been linked to a myriad of diseases, including kidney degeneration, anemia, and softening of the brain. Specifically in dogs, vitamin E deficiency has been linked to stillbirths, muscular dystrophy, poor hair, coat, and heart disease. Natural sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, soy beans and green leafy vegetables.
Antioxidant Properties of Vitamin C:
According to Linus Pauling, some of the most important actions of Vitamin C are the production of collagen, infectious disease resistance, improved cardiovascular health, and anti-tumor effects. In contrast to humans, dogs are able to produce their own vitamin C. Even in light of this ability, supplementing with vitamin C seems to improve their health.
We sometimes add vitamin C to the treatment of our critically ill patients; specifically, puppies infected with the Parvo virus. Fruits used in dog foods that that are excellent natural sources of vitamin C include apples and cranberries. I recently found that two cups of a high-quality dog food can contain the antioxidant vitamin equivalent of seventeen apples.
In short, the answer to the question of antioxidants in dog food is a definitive, “Yes.” The proven and potential heath benefits are well documented and receive wide support, both in the scientific and lay communities . Even if there were no benefits of antioxidants in canine health, vitamins C and E are commonly used as natural preservatives for pet food and therefore still have an important role to play in dog food formulas.