Next to a fresh, highly nutritious diet free of artificial chemicals, clean pure water, an unpolluted environment free of stress, and an abundance of love and companionship, providing your pet with antioxidants is probably the most effective way of slowing down your pets aging process and treating diseases associated with aging. Antioxidants, besides slowing the aging process and helping to prevent disease can also be used to treat degenerative organ diseases such as congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, allergies, immune deficiency disease, autoimmune disease, and arthritis. It should be well noted that antioxidant therapy is not just a symptomatic cure even though it often relieves itching, inflammation and pain. Antioxidants treat disease conditions at their root by blocking a chain reaction that causes cellular damage and eventually organ disease. Antioxidants work by combining with and thereby neutralizing these toxic free radicals before they have a chance to injure the cell’s outer membrane or inner nucleus which contains the body DNA.
I would now like to define several terms which will be used throughout the rest of this paper. To begin with you must understand that the term “oxidation” is what happens to metals, food, living animal tissue and plant tissue when they are exposed to oxygen for a prolonged period of time. Metals that become oxidized, “rust”. Foods that become oxidized spoil and their fats and oils become “rancid”; their proteins “putrefy”. Living tissue that becomes oxidized ages and develops disease. “Free radical” is the next term that needs explaining. Oxidation of our pet’s body occurs as a result of the presence of “free radicals which are highly toxic t6 the cell’s outer membrane and inner nucleus. Free radicals are extremely reactive, highly unstable, charged atoms and molecules that attempt to combine with molecules making up the structure of the cell, and in the process damage the cell membrane and the nuclear DNA. In a body that is normal, healthy, and resilient these free radicals are kept under control, neutralized, and prevented from doing damage by the body’s “anti-oxidant defense system” This system consists of specific enzymes, vitamins, minerals and amino acids which have the job of combining with these toxic free radicals thus neutralizing them and preventing cellular damage
If the body’s anti-oxidant defense system is stressed by free radicals resulting from bacteria, viruses, chemical food additives, insecticides, herbicides, deficient diets, damaging drugs, allergies, trauma, psychological stress, cancer, UV light or air and water pollutants, the number of free radicals in the body will go up tremendously and eventually exceed the ability of the antioxidant defense system to neutralize them. When this imbalance occurs the free radicals are able to push through the antioxidant defense barrier and destroy body cells and tissues. Such progressive cellular destruction by free radicals is at the root of the processes we call “disease” and “aging”. By supplementing our pet’s diet with antioxidants we are helping to replenish their body’s anti-oxidant defense system and keep it strong and vigilant. As research proceeds in the area of “free radical pathology”, the “free radical concept of disease” may possibly become the concept for explaining disease and aging In summary, weakening of the anti-oxidant defense system can develop from either dietary deficiency of antioxidants or as a result of an increased free radical load which can come from either inside or outside the body. The increased free radical load will eventually exhaust the body’s anti-oxidant defense system and disease and aging will result The increase in the body’s free radical load can result from the body taking in externally produced free radical sources such as food contaminated with insecticides or rancid fat, foods containing chemical additives (which act as preservatives, taste enhancers or coloring agents), air pollutants (cigarette smoke, car exhaust, smog), contaminated water, infectious agents (viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites) and toxic drugs, radiation, ultraviolet light from the sun. An increase in the numbers of free radicals can also result from the presence of pre-existing disease which can set off a chain reaction resulting in a progressive increase in the number of internally created free radicals.
The body’s antioxidant system consists of two major groups: 1) antioxidant enzymes which are for the most part synthesized by the body 2) antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins and minerals which are taken into the body with the food our dog eats and the supplements we provide. The antioxidant enzymes are the most potent and consist primarily of superoxide dismutate (SOD), catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and Coenzyme Q 10. The anti-oxidant nutrients consist of vitamins A, C, E and betacarotene, bioflavanoids, and the minerals Selenium, Zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, sulfur and iron. Vitamin B1, B2, B6, B12 and choline are the antioxidant B vitamins
Although the entire part free radicals play in disease is not totally understood, it is believed that they either cause or accelerate a wide variety of chronic disease such as chronic degenerative disease, chronic inflammatory disease, immune deficient diseases, auto immune disease, allergies, environmental hypersensitivities, and cancer. Conversely, antioxidants, by neutralizing these free radicals, can be used to treat or prevent these same diseases. Besides neutralizing free radicals, antioxidants function as anti inflammatories and immune stimulants.
Some general indications for antioxidant therapy are listed below:
- To support healthy animals that are regularly exposed to environmental free radicals such as air pollution, water contamination, nutritional deficiencies, chemical food additives including pesticides
- To support healthy animals, young and old, that are exposed to emotional stress, physical trauma, infectious organisms
- To support healthy middle aged pets, at risk of developing chronic geriatric disease
- To support pets, young and old, that are presently struggling with inflammatory disease, allergies, immune deficiencies, auto-immune disease, and cancer.
- To support sick, geriatric pets that already have degenerative disease
- To support all pets in recovering from trauma and surgery
- To retard the aging process.
Antioxidant therapy has a number of advantages not found in other more conventional approaches
- Antioxidants are beneficial to the entire body and not just the organ or organ system being treated.
- Unlike many drugs such as cortisone or aspirin, antioxidants treat the cause and not just the symptoms of disease.
- Unlike many drugs such as cortisone or aspirin, antioxidants can be used long term without fear of side effects.
- Antioxidants can be used along with other therapies without fear of drug interactions.
- Antioxidants can be used to reduce the dose of other more aggressive and possibly more toxic therapies.