Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

The Power of Antioxidants

December 30, 2011 / (0) comments

A dog food that is rich in antioxidants can help keep your pet healthy and happy throughout the years by combating the damaging effects of free radicals.

Free radicals are formed in the body during the metabolic processes that produce energy. They are molecules that contain oxygen and are missing an electron, which makes them highly reactive. Free radicals are in constant search of their missing electrons and will "steal" electrons from almost anywhere they can, including cell membranes, DNA, and proteins in order to neutralize themselves. A molecule that loses an electron to a free radical becomes damaged and often becomes a free radical itself, continuing the corruptive cycle.

The damage caused by free radicals plays a role in the aging process, immune dysfunction, the progression of disease, and more. Like us, our pets have natural defenses against free radicals, but those defenses can become overwhelmed when the body is stressed by advanced age, illness, exposure to toxins, or poor nutrition.

This is where antioxidants come in. An antioxidant is a molecule found in food that can break down free radicals by "donating" an electron, thereby neutralizing it. In the process, antioxidants do not become free radicals, breaking the cycle.

A nutritionally balanced dog food made from high quality ingredients will contain the antioxidants that your dog needs to counteract the effects of free radicals. Look for beta carotene and vitamins A, C, and E, among others, on the ingredient list. These supplements are highly concentrated and don’t need to be present in large amounts, so they can often be found low down on the ingredient list. Finding whole fruits and vegetables on the ingredient list is beneficial as well. Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin E, while carrots contain high concentrations of vitamin A and beta carotene, and broccoli is rich in vitamin C. Take a look at the MyBowl tool to find out the proportion of antioxidants your dogs need in their diet.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Carrots, oh yum by Canopener Sally / via Flickr