Importance of Antioxidants for Dogs

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Steward.

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The term ‘antioxidant’ has been thrown around a lot over the last decade. However, many people do not realize the importance of antioxidants for dogs. The abilities of these little molecules can extend beyond human beings, and be beneficial to your pets, specifically, to your dogs. 

What Are Antioxidants For Dogs?

Antioxidants are substances that protect the body from oxidation, which is the term given to the damage caused by free radicals. While your dog’s body does have its own antioxidant defense system to protect it from free radicals, it is also reliant on a ‘top-up’ of antioxidant goodness from the food that your canine pal consumes.

Why Are Free Radicals Bad?

Free radicals are “charged” molecules, which means that they have the ability to make normal cells change. The damage inflicted by free radicals on normal cells is irreparable and has been linked to serious diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

How Do Antioxidants Help Your Dog?

The benefits of antioxidants for dogs cannot be underestimated. They attack free radicals and remove them safely from the dog’s body. Compared to dogs that get adequate antioxidants, if your dog doesn’t eat meals packed with antioxidants, these radicals can cause various dog’s health problems like joint and arthritis problems.

That’s why you should give your dog enough antioxidants. The anti-inflammatory elements of antioxidants help relieve painful eyes and other dry eye conditions. Antioxidants also promote immune system activity and help fight allergies.

Why Does My Dog Need Antioxidants?

Unlike humans, dogs are regularly exposed to more toxins, making antioxidant supplements crucial for optimal health. Antioxidants boost the immune-cell function for senior dogs and slow down the aging process of cellular molecules. 

Unlike mature dogs, antioxidants can also improve vaccine recognition in puppies that are being vaccinated because their immune system is still developing.

What Are the Best Antioxidants for Dogs?

The best antioxidants for pets can help you get proactive no matter the phase of life your pet is in.


Compared to senior dogs, puppies require the following antioxidants since their small bodies are still learning to mitigate toxins and germs:

Selenium: This is great for growing dogs as it supports thyroid health, minimizes the risk of cancer, and protects against heart disease.

Beta Carotene: It’s essential to ensure your puppies get enough Beta Carotene as it optimizes vaccine recognition by pups and increases antibody blood levels.

Vitamins E and C: These are great for wound healing, inflammation of the gums, joint pain, and increasing energy levels. Vitamin E is necessary as it enhances healthy blood vessels and boosts the immune system. 

Adult Dogs

Unlike puppies and senior dogs, adult dogs require a balance of these antioxidants to restore their active muscles and minimize inflammation:

Polyphenols: As your puppy progresses through life, it may begin to develop different diseases like diabetes and cancer. Polyphenols keep your dog healthy as it prevents the development of these illnesses. 

Vitamin C and E: Provide support to your dog’s joint health and immune system. 

Senior Dogs

Similar to puppies, the immune system of senior dogs requires a special boost. These antioxidants can help reverse age-related immunity problems:

Polyphenols: Senior dogs tend to have less protection against severe disorders. Thus, giving them polyphenols is an excellent way of slowing down or preventing the development of diabetes, cancer, and other systemic illnesses. 

Beta Carotene: Including this in your dog’s diet is crucial, especially as your dog approaches their senior years because it helps increase antibody blood levels.

Vitamin C and Vitamin E: Different natural functions and organs start to decline as your dog ages. Vitamin C provides energy and protects joints while vitamin E ensures the immune system remains strong. 

Where Can You Find Antioxidants?

Antioxidants can be found in the vitamins and minerals of the fruits and vegetables we eat, particularly in the skin of apples and carrots. The most common antioxidants are beta carotene, selenium, and lycopene.

How Will I Know if My Dog Is Getting Enough Antioxidants?

If your dog is not getting enough antioxidants, you’ll notice some muscle loss, feel no fat on its bones and easily see its pelvic bones, vertebrae, and ribs. To boost your dog’s intake, add these antioxidant-rich foods to their diet. 

  • Green beans, steamed broccoli, spinach
  • Sweet potatoes, cooked yellow squash
  • Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries
  • Mangoes, tomatoes

Daily Supplement for Antioxidants

Whether your dog’s digestion can handle the roughage of vegetables and fruits or not, their health can also benefit greatly by receiving daily supplements. When selecting a supplement, look for these ingredients:

  • B-Vitamins: A combination of B-Vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, and B12 are essential for optimal development. The B-complex promotes skeletal structure, brain functionality, and healthy skin. 
  • Antioxidants: Look for ingredients such as cysteine and resveratrol and important vitamins like A, C, and E to ensure your pet gets essential antioxidants for dogs. 
  • Lactoferrin: This is a protein found in milk products. It binds with iron and promotes a functional skeletal structure and immune system. 
  • Omega Fatty Acids: this can help in different stages of development. It can help puppies control sleep and mood cycles when mixed with tryptophan.
  • Chondroitin: This is found in chicken and is good for senior dogs. It aids in joint mobility by supporting and lubricating the bone structure. 
  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid: It helps improve brain functionality and cognition in dogs of all phases.

Also, when supplement shopping, choose a pill for your dog’s phase of life and not one size fits all antioxidant supplements. However, avoid giving supplements to lactating or pregnant dogs without consulting your veterinarian. 

Antioxidants in Pet Food

Many types of dog food have a long shelf life because the food contains various preservatives, including antioxidants. When food spoils, it is because oxygen has penetrated it and oxidative damage has occurred. However, these antioxidants prevent this from happening, allowing down the rate at which oxidative damage occurs, ensuring the food contained in the packet, can or box, lasts longer.

Both natural antioxidants and a synthetic variety are used in many processed dog foods and should be listed as a preservative on the ingredients label. Many owners prefer to choose foods that use natural antioxidants, as they feel this is healthier for their dog. However, natural antioxidants don’t last long as products containing the synthetic alternative, so check expiration dates before purchase.

Related Questions

Are Antioxidants Safe for Dogs?

Antioxidants are safe for dogs. However, speak to your vet to advise you on the right antioxidant dose for your pet. Also, note that balanced supplements are better than individual minerals and vitamins as they can improve toxicity when adding antioxidants into a diet. 

Additionally, some antioxidants can interfere with some cancer therapies while others can improve outcomes. Due to this, veterinary supervision is recommended.

What Are the Three Most Important Antioxidants?

The three most important antioxidants are vitamins C and E and Beta Carotene. They’re found in colorful vegetables and fruits, especially those with yellow, blue, orange, purple, and red hues like tomatoes, carrots, blueberries, and cooked yellow squash.

Why You Should Choose Dog Food That Contains Antioxidants

As a loving, responsible pet parent, you will certainly want to ensure that you are doing everything you possibly can to give your canine companion the longest, happiest, and healthiest life possible. Not only will choosing dog foods that contain antioxidants last your pet much longer, but with them proven to reduce the risk of a range of chronic and debilitating illnesses and diseases, you will also be doing your dog’s health a tremendous favor.

As an additional note, high protein-enriched dog food shouldn’t be taken into consideration either as this can damage your pet’s kidneys or cause severe obesity or arthritis. This can save your pet from a great deal of pain and discomfort, and help you to keep stressful trips to your veterinarian and expensive medical treatments to a minimum.

Have more questions about feeding your pet a well-balanced diet or other health related queries? Give Care Animal Hospital a call today at 951-676-4690.