In this edition of my blog, i’m providing an overview on antioxidants – why are they important for our animal’s health?
What are Antioxidants and why are they helpful?
Antioxidants are essential for both animals and humans alike. Their primary benefit is their ability to neutralize excess free radicals that the body produces during its normal metabolic processes. Free radicals ‘attack’ the cells in the body causing cell damage and can eventually contribute to the development of illness.
Antioxidants provide the body with a natural defence against these free radicals. However, an effective antioxidant system relies upon good nutrition – if the body is producing a large volume of free radicals or is exposed to lots of oxidants in the environment – the antioxidant defence cannot always cope.
It’s therefore best to take preventative action to help boost the body against free radical damage by providing a good antioxidant system.
So good nutrition is vital to ensure that there’s an adequate intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. If your animal has good quality food then it’s likely that it’s enough to provide a nutritious source. But some animals who are older or who have a health challenge may need extra support through supplementation to ensure a good intake of antioxidants.
Supplements are unlikely to reverse damage already caused to cells, but they may help prevent further degeneration of cartilage and cell damage through free radicals.
What vitamins can be used as antioxidant sources?
Two common sources are vitamins C and E:
- Ascorbic acid (or Vitamin C) is an important anti- oxidant for both humans and animals.
- Vitamin E is another important antioxidant and works well with selenium – an essential mineral.
Selenium is another good antioxidant, although it can be scarce due to many pastures not having naturally good levels of it any longer.
Some animals do produce their own vitamin C – including horses, cats and dogs. But in times of stress or as they’re getting older they may not be able to make enough.
Vitamin E is not produced in the same way.
So what is “stress”? This can be anything from horses who compete or take part in strenuous activities (e.g. cross-country, endurance), to animals travelling long distances as examples.
If the animal isn’t making enough vitamin C themselves, then supplementation maybe helpful.
Are Vitamins C and E helpful for anything else for our pets?
Vitamin C is also helpful as it acts in both the synthesis of cartilage as well as an antioxidant. Aches and pains caused by arthritis type ailments are often due to damaged cartilage. It is therefore sensible to ensure you have a good supply of vitamin C in your animals diet should they be older and perhaps more stiff in their gait.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble nutrient that’s not only an antioxidant but is helpful for healthy skin, muscles and circulation.
Natural sources of vitamins?
Natural sources of vitamins and minerals should always be preferred to those which are synthetically manufactured. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits/plants that animals enjoy such as Rosehips, Pears (one of Tara the horses’ favourite fruits!) and Apples.
For horses, fresh pasture will often contain plentiful supplies of vitamin E. Wheatgerm Oil is a natural source for both cats and dogs.
How much supplementation maybe needed?
It will vary according to the individual animal, and it’s not always wise to use too much – as it can upset the nutritional balance of the body. First of all find out what the food you are giving to your animal contains – does it have a mix of high quality sourced antioxidant ingredients? If you’re not sure what may help your animals, then speak to your Veterinary Surgeon or qualified animal nutritionist.
What do my animals here at Taranet have to help with their anti-oxidant intake?
Forever Freedom is one of my favourite supplements (and which I’m proud to sell!) and contains Vitamin C plus Glucosamine and Chondroitin which are considered to be helpful to maintain healthy joint function. But these ingredients are all combined within an Aloe Vera formulation too.
Here’s some research on Glucosamine and Chondroitin that’s worth a look:
Glucosamine for animals: http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/ajvr.2003.64.666
I hope this has been helpful in providing an overview of antioxidants and why they maybe helpful to our animals.
Until next time,
Director, Taranet Complementary Therapies for Animals (Business Consultancy, Social Media Training and Forever Business Owner)
Animal Health Info Online: www.taranet.co.uk
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