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Is Your Dog's Diet Supporting Their Vision Health? Exploring Nutritional Support for Vision Loss in Dogs

Diets rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids may be recommended to support retinal health and slow the progression of certain degenerative conditions affecting vision. Antioxidants are crucial for maintaining a dog's health, particularly in preventing cell damage and supporting the immune system. Some of the best antioxidants for dogs include:


a) Vitamin E:

Vitamin E is a crucial antioxidant that supports skin and coat health, immune function, and muscle health in dogs. Protects against oxidative damage and supports skin and coat health. Some of the natural foods rich in Vitamin E and beneficial to dogs include:

An illustration of foods rich in vitamin E
An illustration of foods rich in vitamin E

  • Peas: These small but nutritious vegetables are a good source of Vitamin E.

  • Salmon: Apart from being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is also a good source of Vitamin E.

  • Broccoli: This vegetable is beneficial for dogs in small amounts, providing Vitamin E along with fiber and other nutrients.

  • Blueberries: Known for their antioxidant properties, blueberries are also a source of Vitamin E.

  • Spinach: Leafy greens like spinach are rich in Vitamin E, iron, and other essential nutrients.

  • Sweet Potato: A healthy source of carbohydrates, sweet potatoes also provide Vitamin E.

  • Peanut Butter: A favorite treat of many dogs, natural peanut butter (without xylitol) can be a source of Vitamin E.

  • Organ Meats: Such as liver and spleen, are naturally high in Vitamin E.

  • Eggs: A versatile source of protein, eggs also contain Vitamin E.

  • Vegetable Oils: Some, like soybean oil, are rich in Vitamin E but should be used sparingly due to their high fat content.


b) Vitamin C:

While dogs can produce Vitamin C in their bodies, adding foods rich in this vitamin can provide additional health benefits, especially for older dogs or those under stress or illness. It boosts the immune system and some of the natural sources of Vitamin C suitable for dogs include:

An illustration of foods rich in vitamin C
An illustration of foods rich in vitamin C
  • Fruits: Certain fruits like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and oranges can be good sources of Vitamin C. Always offer these in moderation and ensure all seeds and pits are removed to prevent choking or toxicity.

  • Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale are rich in Vitamin C but should be given in moderation. Note that some of these vegetables may not be suitable for dogs with specific health issues, like hypothyroid dogs.

  • Supplements: While not a "natural" source per se, acerola powder and camu-camu powder are derived from fruit and can be added to your dog’s diet as a concentrated source of Vitamin C.

Although Vitamin C is generally safe for dogs, excessive amounts can lead to stomach upset or diarrhea.


c) Beta-Carotene:

Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A, an essential nutrient that supports vision, skin and coat health, and immune function. For dogs, incorporating natural sources of beta-carotene into their diet can offer health benefits. Some of the natural foods rich in beta-carotene include:


An illustration of foods rich in beta-carotene
An illustration of foods rich in beta-carotene
  • Carrots: Often associated with vitamin A, carrots are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene. They can be given raw or cooked as a healthy snack for dogs.

  • Spinach: This leafy green is not only rich in beta-carotene but also contains other vital nutrients like iron and calcium.

  • Cantaloupe: This sweet melon is a good source of beta-carotene and can be a refreshing treat for dogs, especially during warmer months.

  • Tomatoes: While ripe tomatoes contain beta-carotene and can be safe in small quantities, it's important to ensure they are fully ripe and to avoid giving dogs the green parts of the tomato plant, which are toxic.


d) Selenium:

Works in conjunction with vitamin E to protect cells and support a healthy immune system. Selenium is an essential trace mineral that plays a critical role in maintaining the health of your dog. It supports various bodily functions, including metabolism and thyroid function, and contributes to antioxidant activity that protects cells from damage. Some of the natural foods rich in selenium that can be safe and beneficial for dogs when given in appropriate amounts include:


An illustration of foods rich in selenium
An illustration of foods rich in selenium
  • Fish: Fish, especially types like salmon, tuna, and sardines, are excellent sources of selenium. They also provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for a dog's skin, coat, and joint health.

  • Meat: Beef, turkey, and chicken are good sources of selenium. Organ meats, particularly liver, are also rich in selenium but should be given in moderation due to their high vitamin A content.

  • Eggs: Eggs contain selenium and are a wholesome food for dogs, providing protein and various vitamins and minerals. Ensure they are cooked to avoid the risk of salmonella.

  • Brazil Nuts: While nuts are generally not recommended for dogs due to their high fat content and risk of causing pancreatitis, Brazil nuts are exceptionally high in selenium. If choosing to feed Brazil nuts, do so rarely and in very small amounts, as they can also be a choking hazard.


Excessive selenium intake can lead to toxicity, with symptoms including gastrointestinal upset, hair loss, and lethargy.


e) Lutein:

Lutein is a type of carotenoid antioxidant that is beneficial for eye health, helping to reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. It's also thought to support skin health and may play a role in preventing heart disease. Lutein is not synthesized by the body, so it must be obtained through diet. Some of the natural foods that are particularly rich in lutein include:


An illustration of foods rich in lutein
An illustration of foods rich in lutein
  • Kale: One of the best sources of lutein, kale also provides a wealth of other nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K.

  • Spinach: High in lutein, spinach is also a great source of iron, magnesium, and vitamins A and C.

  • Broccoli: Offers a good amount of lutein along with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and potassium.

  • Corn: Yellow corn is a good source of lutein and provides carbohydrates, fiber, and essential vitamins.

  • Eggs: The yolk contains lutein and zeaxanthin, another important carotenoid for eye health, along with protein and healthy fats.

  • Green Peas: Contain lutein and are also a good source of vitamins C and K, fiber, and protein.

  • Oranges: While not as high in lutein as leafy greens, oranges offer lutein along with vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.

f) Taurine:

An amino acid that is vital for heart health, particularly in certain breeds prone to heart disease. Taurine is an essential amino acid for some animals, notably cats, and a beneficial nutrient for dogs, supporting cardiovascular health, eye health, and more. While humans and dogs can synthesize taurine from other amino acids, it's crucial for the diet of certain pets, like cats, to be supplemented with taurine. Some natural foods high in taurine include:


An illustration of foods rich in taurine
An illustration of foods rich in taurine
  • Seafood: Shellfish, especially scallops, mussels, and clams, are very high in taurine. Fish like salmon and tuna also contain significant amounts.

  • Meat: Chicken, especially dark meat, is a good source of taurine. Beef and lamb also contain taurine but in varying amounts depending on the cut.

  • Organ Meats: Hearts and livers of animals (chicken, beef, and lamb) are particularly high in taurine. These are often included in pet foods for this reason.

  • Dairy: Some dairy products, like milk, contain taurine, but the amount can vary.


g) Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA & DHA):

Omega fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, are essential for dogs' health, contributing to improved skin and coat health, reduced inflammation, and support for cognitive and heart health. While many commercial dog foods are formulated to include these essential fatty acids, incorporating natural sources into your dog's diet can provide additional benefits. Some of the natural foods rich in omega fatty acids that are beneficial to dogs include:


An illustration of foods rich in omega fatty acids
An illustration of foods rich in omega fatty acids
  • Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Flaxseed: Ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil is a good plant-based source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. However, dogs may not convert ALA to EPA and DHA as efficiently as needed, so it should complement animal-based sources.

  • Chia Seeds: Like flaxseed, chia seeds are rich in ALA. They can be added to your dog’s diet in small amounts to boost omega-3 intake.

  • Walnuts: Contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) but should be given in very small amounts and not frequently due to their high fat content, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis in dogs.

  • Fish Oil Supplements: If natural foods are not an option, fish oil supplements specifically designed for dogs can be a direct way to ensure they get enough omega-3 fatty acids. Always choose a high-quality supplement and follow the dosage instructions carefully.


h) Curcumin (Turmeric):

Curcumin is the active compound found in turmeric, a spice that comes from the turmeric root. It is known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties. While turmeric is the primary source of curcumin, it is not absorbed well into the bloodstream without the help of certain additives. Curcumin can naturally be introduced to dogs in a way that they can better absorb its benefits by one of the following ways:


An illustration of the various forms of turmeric
An illustration of the various forms of turmeric
  • Turmeric Root: Fresh turmeric root can be finely grated and added to your dog's meals. However, its curcumin content is relatively low, so it must be combined with other ingredients to enhance absorption.

  • Turmeric Powder: More commonly used, turmeric powder can be mixed into your dog’s food. To increase its bioavailability, it’s best used in a recipe that includes black pepper and a healthy fat, such as coconut oil. This combination helps to enhance the absorption of curcumin by the body.

  • Golden Paste: A popular way to supplement dogs with turmeric, golden paste is a mixture of turmeric powder, water, coconut oil (or another healthy oil), and black pepper. The paste can be added to your dog's meals. There are many recipes available online for making golden paste at home.

  • Turmeric Supplements: There are also curcumin supplements specifically designed for dogs. These often include piperine (the active component in black pepper) or other substances that increase curcumin's bioavailability. If choosing a supplement, select one that’s made specifically for pets and follow the dosage instructions carefully.


i) Green Tea Extract:

Contains polyphenols that may reduce cancer risk and improve heart health. Green tea extract is becoming increasingly recognized for its potential health benefits for dogs, including:


An illustration of green tea plus its chemical formula
An illustration of green tea plus its chemical formula
  • Immune System Support: Green tea can help bolster the immune system, potentially lowering the risk of disease and infection in dogs by providing a rich source of antioxidants.

  • Cancer Treatment Supplement: While limited studies have been conducted, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that green tea might supplement cancer treatment through its antioxidant properties.

  • Antimicrobial and Anti-fungal Properties: Green tea has been shown to help treat dandruff in dogs caused by mites and other bacteria due to its antimicrobial and anti-fungal nature.


j) Resveratrol:

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring antioxidant known for its potential health benefits, including anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer properties.and heart-health properties. While direct studies on dogs might be limited, resveratrol's overall health benefits make it a compound of interest for pet owners. Here are some natural sources:


An illustration showing fruits rich in Resveratrol
An illustration showing fruits rich in Resveratrol
  • Grapes and Berries: These fruits contain naturally occurring resveratrol Found in grape skins and certain berries, it has anti-inflammatory and. However, it's crucial to note that grapes (including raisins) are toxic to dogs and should never be fed to them. Certain berries may offer a safer way to introduce small amounts of resveratrol.

  • Peanuts: Peanuts have resveratrol but should be given to dogs in moderation and only unsalted, unsweetened, and unflavored. Avoid peanut products containing xylitol, a sweetener harmful to dogs.

  • Japanese Knotweed: This plant is a significant source of resveratrol, especially in supplement form designed for dogs. Supplements derived from Japanese knotweed can provide concentrated doses of trans-resveratrol, the active form most associated with health benefits.


References

 

Wang W, Hernandez J, Moore C, Jackson J, Narfström K. (2016). Antioxidant supplementation increases retinal responses and decreases refractive error changes in dogs. Journal of Nutritional Science. 5:e18. doi:10.1017/jns.2016.5


Shastak Y, Pelletier W. (2024) Pet Wellness and Vitamin A: A Narrative Overview. Animals, 14(7):1000. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani14071000


Bellows, J., Colitz, C. M. H., Daristotle, L., Ingram, D. K., Lepine, A., Marks, S. L., Sanderson, S. L., Tomlinson, J., & Zhang, J. (2015). Common physical and functional changes associated with aging in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 246(1), 67-75. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.246.1.67


Bauer, J. E. (2016). The essential nature of dietary omega-3 fatty acids in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 249(11), 1267-1272. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.249.11.1267

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