Acai, Vitamin C, and Other Antioxidants for a Healthy Dog
Antioxidants are substances that may reduce the cellular damage done by free radicals in our bodies. Antioxidants have been recommended for allergies, skin diseases, eye diseases, respiratory and cardiac disease, as well as changes from aging.
Antioxidants are available in a lot of foods available fresh in the US and Europe. I will give some examples here, but Blueberries may be the best. Most whole foods with deep red, purple or blue colors are high in antioxidants, and some research indicates that the antioxidant levels in wild blueberries are even higher than açai. It may not be as bioavailable, though, and a lot of research is being done in that area. In one article I found the researchers were trying to investigate a link between fiber levels and the availability of the antioxidants. It is still not clear which of these foods is really better, especially for your dog.
There is a lot of ignorance about this subject for humans and when dealing with dogs the situation is even worse. So can you help your dog by giving antioxidants? Which ones should you be giving?
Açai is a type of fruit found on a palm tree originally from the Amazon region. The berry has generated a lot of interest for several reasons and one of them is its antioxidant properties. The açai fruit contains beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and vitamin E: the berries are supposed to slow oxidation in the body and in that way prevent damage to cells.
Açai does contain some theobromine. I searched in several languages but cannot find any sources with the exact amount. Are the potential benefits greater than the potential risks? I guess that depends on what and how you are using the fruit. If you have the product available, and your dog is at risk of cancer and arthritis, there are holistic veterinarians who believe in it and are using it in therapy. There have never been any reported cases of poisoning, and the ASPCA poison control center does not consider açai to be a threat in poisoning your dog.
Dogs produce Vitamin C so some veterinarians say that they do not need supplements. Others point out the benefits of megadoses if it is used properly. Many of the writers on the internet will say “Ask your veterinarian” in their columns but a veterinarian can only give you his opinion based on the latest research he has read.
If Vitamin C is effective in dogs it will make the skin healthier, strengthen blood vessels, and make the immune system stronger.
If you want to give your dog plenty of Vitamin C but are also trying to maintain your dog on natural supplements, he can be given pulp or fresh acerola, also known as acerola cherries. Acerola can also be purchased in powder form for those who have no access to the fresh fruit.
There is a dearth of information about the positive effects of Vitamin C supplements in dogs but plenty of information about the bad effects. Vitamin C does tend to lower the urine pH and will dissolve struvite stones. It will not dissolve calcium oxalate stones so it is important to have a urinalysis done periodically to make sure there is not going to be a problem.
If your dog needs the benefits of Vitamin C (for example in his skin and immune system) this is an antioxidant you can try.
1. Vitamin A is used by the body in keeping the skin healthy, protecting mucus membranes, helping eyesight, and making the immune system strong. If your dog eats a small piece of liver once a week, has sweet potato or carrot snacks, or even eats an egg a few times a week, he will not become deficient in this vitamin. Besides night blindness, a rough skin, and weakness, a deficiency of Vitamin A can make your dog more susceptible to infections.
2. Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant. Besides slowing cellular aging it is helpful in heart disease, cancer, and allergies. This vitamin can be supplemented by giving wheat germ or using a vegetable oil like that from the palm tree (dende oil, and maybe some other more common vegetable oils). Açai also contains 45mg per 100g of fruit. Your dog may not like the vegetable sources of vitamin E (mango, nuts, and peanuts) but you can always give her the capsules or put a teaspoon of vegetable oil on her food.
3. Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that may help Vitamin C to function and is also good for aging changes, like cataracts. The compound is safe in dogs and they can be dosed at 1-5 mg/kg. The smallest capsules I have been able to find at Amazon.com were 100mg, so if your dog is small and you want to try this product you will need to try to find it at a local health food store.
4. Selenium is the only mineral on this list. It may be the best antioxidant to slow down aging changes since it keeps the tissue more elastic. It may be helpful in cancer cases or dogs that are being treated with chronic steroid doses but it is toxic if given incorrectly so should only be used if your dog is under medical care for a separate condition.
5. Milk Thistle contains an antioxidant that seems to limit free radical damage in the liver. It protects liver cell membranes, makes the bile flow freer, and seems to even protect the liver from any new damage.
6. Grape Seed Extract is found in some of the antioxidants for humans. It is supposed to be highly bioavailable and especially useful in cancer and heart disease. Many readers will be aware of the danger of feeding grapes to their dogs but the most current research indicates the toxin is in the flesh of the raisin. The seed is safe and there have been no reported problems. There are so many available antioxidants that personally I would not choose to use this product. If your dog is suffering from cancer and this is one of the alternatives, however, it would be worth trying.
This list is not comprehensive. There are probably antioxidants useful in dogs that have not been discussed here. There is a lot of great information out there among the readers of Hubpages and I would appreciate any contributions made to the comment section.
I have decided to put my dog on an antioxidant. I give her açai each week on her dog food when I make my smoothie. The problem with this type of experiment is that the results are only anecdotal. My dog is already in great shape and can climb over my neighbor´s 2 meter wall quite easily. I have been adding palm oil to her food since she was a puppy so she already has a glossy and healthy coat. She is of mixed breed heritage and both of her parents are healthy so I do not expect her to have any genetic diseases. I live in an isolated area so she is exposed to few environmental toxins. Even if she lives to fifteen or twenty, what does that prove? I can claim it is because of the antioxidants, another person will claim it is because of the lack of environmental poisons, another person will claim that it is because I give her raw food several times a week.
Just in case this is too serious!!!