Featured Ingredient: Antioxidants

The use of antioxidants in the diet is becoming more widely recognised as a positive influence in the health of animals and humans. In pet foods, antioxidants serve two important functions: keeping food fresh and keeping pets healthy.

What are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants play a major role in maintaining your pet's health. They help the body fight the destructive effects of free radicals and are a natural by-product of metabolism. A dog or cat's body can normally handle free radicals but if the number of free radicals becomes excessive, or if insufficient antioxidants are there to help, then the free radicals could have detrimental effects on the pet's health. Free radicals contain oxygen and are missing an electron, which makes them highly reactive. They attack and take electrons from cell membranes, proteins and DNA. Molecules that lose an electron to a free radical often become free radicals themselves, continuing the cycle. They affect the pet's ability to fight back and may result in cell and tissue damage, just like oxygen can brown an apple or banana.

The production of free radicals increases during inflammation, stimulation of the immune system, exposure to toxins, stress, poor nutrition, illness, and medication. The amount of damage caused depends on the balance between free radicals and antioxidants present.

Antioxidants donate electrons to free radicals without becoming free radicals themselves. Antioxidants are therefore important to protect pets from tissue damage, disease and are essential if a pet is to maintain a strong immune system throughout its life.

The Health Benefits of Antioxidants for Pets

Antioxidants support your dog's or cat's natural defences. They keep the pet's cells healthy, including lungs, heart, blood cells, muscles, nerves, GI tract, and reproductive organs. It was recently demonstrated that a cocktail of such antioxidants limited cell damage in dogs and cats.

They can also play a part in the ageing process, contributing to the development and/or exacerbation of a wide variety of degenerative diseases. Antioxidant supplements can be prescribed to help treat and prevent chronic inflammation such as longstanding allergic dermatitis, chronic arthritis and other chronic inflammatory diseases.

Sources of Antioxidants for your Dog and Cat

The primary source of antioxidants for dogs and cats should be from a complete and balanced diet made from high-quality ingredients provided at optimal levels.

Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Carotenoids (such as Beta-Carotene and Lutein), Polyphenols, Taurine and several minerals including Selenium are all antioxidants or have antioxidant properties.

They are found naturally in many ingredients included in pet foods, but supplements are also used to boost the antioxidant content of the diet without creating nutritional imbalances.


Vitamin E

Helps neutralize free radicals that cause damage. Dietary antioxidants, such as Vitamin E, scavenge and convert free radicals to relatively stable compounds and stop or prevent the chain reaction of free radical damage.

Vitamin C

Inactivates free radicals. Regenerates Vitamin E, restoring its antioxidant activity and works with minerals in their role as antioxidants.


An essential component of beneficial antioxidant enzymes.


Scavenges free radicals and works together with Vitamin E.


Forms a family of major antioxidants, which protect the cell membranes and DNA, preventing some mutations that cause cancer.

If you would like any further advice on our blog “Featured Ingredient: Antioxidants”, please contact the OSCAR Helpline on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email helpline@oscars.co.uk

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