Written by Pedro Mejia, Ph.D.
April 30, 2021.
Just as you, me, and everybody else, your dog needs the oxygen in the air to survive.
That’s not news for anybody.
What we don’t often realize is that the use of oxygen results in the formation of by-products from normal metabolism inside the body. These are called reactive oxygen species or ROS.
ROS, as suggested by their name, are highly reactive and can damage proteins, fats, DNA and basically everything else in your dog’s cells. This in turn can lead to disease.
To stop oxidative damage or stress you must include antioxidants in your dog’s diet.
As it turns out, blueberries have the highest antioxidant power among common fruits and veggies.
What can cause oxidative stress in your dog?
Oxidative stress is especially important for dogs since they have a basal metabolic rate and energy expenditure 3 to 8 times higher than humans. This means they consume more oxygen and thus produce more oxygen by-products.
Oxidative stress can come from inside and outside your dog’s body.
Inflammation, infection, bad nutrition, cancer, excessive exercise, mental stress, and aging can all increase the production of ROS inside the body.
Your dog is also exposed to environmental pollutants, heavy metals, certain drugs, chemical solvents, pesticides, and cigarette smoke.
A walk in the park is enough for your dog to get most of these!!
These compounds penetrate the body. When your dog tries to get rid of them, ROS are generated as by-products.
When unchecked over time, the oxidative damage that ROS cause throughout the body give rise to diseases such as cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular, respiratory, kidney and neurological diseases.
The brain is especially susceptible since it requires large amounts of oxygen to function properly and produce a lot of oxygen metabolism by-products.
Why are blueberries good for your dog?
They have many types of antioxidants but the most powerful are the ones called anthocyanins. They are the ones responsible for the dark blue color of blueberries.
Antioxidants neutralize ROS and prevent damage to tissues and organs. This results in reduction of inflammation and protection against multiple diseases.
When oxidation damages DNA for example, it can give rise to cancer. A study showed that people drinking a mix of blueberry and apple juice for only 4 weeks had 20% less DNA oxidative damage.
Antioxidants from blueberries also work in dogs.
In therapy dogs, 18 weeks of supplementation with antioxidants that included blueberries and strawberry extracts showed a reduction of oxidative stress in their blood.
Inflammation was also reduced in a group of 13 dogs fed food supplemented with blueberries for 2 months.
Sled dogs are exposed to extreme physical effort that results in oxidative damage. A study shows that inclusion of blueberries in their diets decreased oxidative damage in their bodies.
Blueberries and senior dogs
The brain produces more oxygen by-products than other organs and have less protection against oxidative stress.
Overtime, this constant attack can result in neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Scientists now know that the aging brain of dogs is similar to that of humans. Oxidative damage seems to be responsible for the decline of mental abilities in senior dogs as well as in humans.
Senior beagles aged 8 to 12 years old fed a mix of antioxidants for 6 months did better in learning tests than other senior dogs without antioxidants.
Antioxidants slowed down the decline in mental functions of older dogs. These results have been confirmed by many other studies in dogs and humans.
How to feed blueberries to your dog?
Raw and pureed is the best way to squeeze all the nutrients from these little fruits. Make sure to wash them first to remove dirt and remains of pesticides and fertilizers.
Just add them on top of your dog's food. As with most veggies and fruits, keep them under 10% of the total food.
Whenever possible, choose organic blueberries.
Another convenient option: ground and freeze-dried blueberries like in these toppers.
With the added benefits of low sugar and calories, and high vitamins and fiber, blueberries are tiny fruits that are easy to love.
Plus, dogs love their taste too!
There’s no reason why your dog wouldn’t take advantage of all the antioxidant superpower of blueberries.